On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered to protest the deportation of Lourdes Salazar Bautista — a local mother with three U.S.-born children — in Ann Arbor. The event began with a vigil at St. Mary’s Student Parish before marching to the Federal Building on Liberty Street.
Bautista was born in Mexico but moved to the United States with her husband in 1997. She was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2011 but traded places with her husband, who was then deported.
The Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigration Rights, St. Mary’s Student Parish and affiliated community members launched the Lucha por Lourdes campaign, asking Detroit ICE Director Rebecca Adducci to grant Bautista stay in her community. “Lucha” means “fight” in Spanish.
The event was held in both Spanish and English.
In a translated interview, Bautista said she was grateful to have such strong support from the community.
“I feel very strong,” Bautista said. “I feel very full in my faith, and I feel strong to move forward and fight for my children.”
Rackham student Luz Meza, who attends St. Mary’s, joined the campaign as the primary media contact.
“A lot of community members came onto the campaign knowing Lourdes for such a long time,” she said. “We came together — a core group of four of us — and a very large group of amazing volunteers and organizers who are doing a lot of the legwork for this campaign.”
Meza said Bautista’s request to stay in the United States is not abnormal; it has been granted over the past several years and was expected to be granted this year, as she has children.
“The priorities of ICE has changed with the new administration — where before they were using their discretion to grant stay to families where the family was very connected to the community and they have children, and on top of all of it, the possibility of eventually obtaining a legal status through her children,” she said. “There has been a change in the way that things have been running, although it is true that Director Adduci still has the power to grant her to stay. It’s not an issue of, (Adduci) has been instructed not to; it is, she has the power and she’s choosing to go in a route that is more favorable for the followers of the current administration.”
Attendees partook in prayers and moments of silence in support of Bautista. They also lit candles in her honor.
Bautista addressed the crowd, expressing gratitude for the immense community support. Her words were translated to English. Bautista then told her story — her husband’s deportation and how it has affected her and her three children.
“I am the mother of three kids who thank God they have been born in this country,” she said. “I (had) a normal life just like you did until 2010.”
Bautista said she spent 23 days in jail.
“I was told I could remain in this country with my children but that my husband had to go,” she said. “I was only able to see my husband to say goodbye.”
Since then, Bautista said she has checked in with the ICE each year since they granted her the ability to stay on a work permit. However, this March, she was denied stay and is set to be deported August 2.
“Immigration has given me a work permit that has been renewed year by year, until March of this year,” she said. “When I went to my appointment, I was told it’s the decision of the new president. They had to clean up all the archives… I have to leave the country.”
Bautista noted she never had a criminal record, nor is she a threat to the country; she plays the role of both a mother and a father to her children. She said she wants them to have a better future.
“I’m fighting,” she said. “I’m bringing my kids up, I’m shaping them, I want to have the chance to continue guiding them and educating them so they can reach a future, since I come from a very humble environment where I was not able to reach anything like this. I want to shape them so my kids are good members of the community in the future.”
Bautista said such circumstances were not unique to her, but others as well.
“I want to speak out, not just for me and my family, but for people that I know, for members of my family,” she said. “We are here because we are seeking a better future, because we are here to work.”
After the vigil, attendees made their way down State Street toward Liberty Street, chanting and carrying signs in support of Bautista. Signs read “Keep families together” and “Lucha Por Lourdes.”
Marchers stopped outside the Federal Building on Liberty Street. Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor addressed the crowd, speaking in support of Bautista and immigrants in the community.
“On days like today, I am so proud to be in Ann Arbor,” he said. “I am so proud of our commitment to the values of pluralism and compassion. So devoted are we to sharing burdens and speaking out in the presence of injustice and wrong. We live, in the end, in an imperfect but great country.”
Taylor said for some, their ancestors have been in the country for millennia, some were brought in bondage and many came as refugees, who chose the United States to seek a better life.
“All these brave souls ever wanted was the ability to build and realize a dream,” he said.
Taylor said Bautista’s deportation would not benefit the United States in any way, and that the mere act communicates weakness.
“Lourdes’s threatened deportation is a breach of faith and a disgrace,” he said. “It would not make America safer, or protect American jobs. All it will do is devastate an already-separated family and impoverish a community that values her… What kind of culture are we if we deport hard-working parents?”
Taylor called on the community to do everything possible to keep Bautista’s family together.
“Finally, it is up to us to do everything we can to tell the world that Trump is not America,” he said.
Ypsilanti resident Karina Valle, mother to a young son, also addressed the crowd — her husband Jose Valle-Rodriguez has been detained by ICE for over a month.
Years ago, ICE stopped Valle-Rodriguez in a vehicle and told him he would need to go to court, but according to Valle, he never received a court date or information about a hearing. On May 24, ICE officers stopped Valle-Rodriguez and his family in their vehicle.
“The first thing (my husband) did was look back at his son and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” she said. “He was pulled out of the car. My son started going crazy, crying, because he saw that they were pulling his dad out of the car. I didn’t know what to do.”
That same day, ICE officials removed employees from Sava’s restaurant in Ann Arbor. According to Valle, her husband said he was in the car while the raid occurred.
Valle said information about her husband’s court date had been sent to the wrong ZIP code, and so she and her lawyer were able to request a stay of removal. Valle-Rodriguez’s new court date is set for July 27.
“He does not have a criminal record, he is a good man, a lot of people love him here in the community,” she said. “All I’m asking for is for him to come back home so we can fix his status. He wants to be with his family.”
Valle asked community members to come out to support her husband.
Ruth Cassidy, a volunteer with WICIR, was in attendance at the rally. She said she feels there are flaws in the current immigration system and people need to fight for the rights of immigrants like Bautista.
“I just think it’s really sad they’re going to deport this woman,” she said. “Lourdes is a wonderful woman. I think our immigration system is really cruel and inhumane. I think that we all should come together like this and speak out against that, because it’s really wrong. She came here and she basically has no way to get her status ‘fixed,’ as they say. I think we need to change that, and until we change that, we need to just keep fighting for people like Lourdes.”
Molly Morgan works with WICIR and is also part of the Immigration Action Coalition with Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor. She has known Bautista for 15 years, working as her maternal infant health advocate and an interpreter, and she helped Bautista throughout one of her pregnancies.
“Lourdes is an amazing woman; she’s a really special person,” she said. “This (event) was an amazing situation; it was wonderful. There was huge support. She has a lot of support from all areas of the community, including a lot through the kids’ schools… politicians… the church…”
Morgan believed that in Ann Arbor, people are very upset at the continued ICE activity in the community.