Last February, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an Arizona mom of two U.S. citizens, became one of the first undocumented immigrants to be taken into custody following Donald Trump signing a series of executive orders that effectively unleashed his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mass deportation force. In a last-ditch effort, the nation watched as her supporters formed a ring around a convoy of vans that were exiting an ICE facility in Phoenix. Inside one of those vans was Garcia de Rayos. Her two children, at times weeping, were outside.
But the community demonstrations failed, and ICE deported Garcia de Rayos to a nation she had not called home for decades. Since arriving in Mexico, Garcia de Rayos opened a small tortilla shop using donations she received following the international publicity of the case. But with little income coming in due to surrounding competition, she can’t repair the modern but expensive machinery that has broken down since. Above all, she misses her children:
After she was deported, Garcia de Rayos was reunited with her family members, many of whom she had not seen in years, including her mother and father, a sister and brother. Some she had never met, including her three nieces, who were born after she left Mexico for the United States 21 years earlier.
Being surrounded by their love helps her get through the pain of being separated from her husband and children.
She also tries to keep busy. Besides running the tortilla shop, she helps out at a stand selling cups of sliced fruit her sister and mother run in the center of town, across from the massive Catholic cathedral that anchors the town plaza.
But when darkness falls, she dreads returning to her bedroom alone.
“It is very difficult, even though I am pretty happy to be with my family here,” she says. “But once nighttime comes, I miss my children dearly.”
She points at a bed on the other side of the room, below a poster of Jesus, blond and blue-eyed, raising his hand as if giving a blessing.
“That is where my children sleep when they visit,” she says.
“At night she is tormented by the hard choices the family must face: Should her husband and American children come live with her in Mexico? Or should they stay in the United States, separated perhaps forever, clinging to hope that she may one day be allowed to legally return?” For now, Garcia de Rayos’s children,17-year-old Angel and 15-year-old Jackie, stay here and visit her during school breaks. But they shouldn’t have to move to be with their mom, because this is their country. This was Garcia de Rayos’s country, too, until the day a man who said he’d target so-called “bad hombres” was sworn into office and instead targeted a mom who just trying to work hard and provide for her kids.