Immigration Nightmare

Arizona’s immigration laws have come under fire from immigration advocates and critics, who say that the strict laws interfere with personal rights and possibly lead to racial profiling. Now, a news story seems to bear out the idea. Araceli Mercado Sanchez has made headlines after being threatened with deportation after a routine traffic stop in Arizona.

Sanchez is married to Pfc.Guillermo Garcia, who serves with the US military and is stationed overseas. While traveling to the grocery store to get a few things for her child’s birthday party, Sanchez was stopped for a minor traffic violation. She has been an undocumented immigrant in the US since she was a small child and is now 22. After being pulled over for the traffic violation, Sanchez’s immigration status was checked, as per current Arizona laws. When it was found that she did not have legal status, she was placed in an immigration jail in Eloy, Arizona. She was eventually released.

Pfc. Guillermo Garcia was worried about his wife and daughter and was relieved to find out that his spouse was at least released from custody. Garcia has been in Germany and was unable to fly to Arizona directly to address the issue.

According to Sanchez’s attorney, Richard Green, Sanchez was referred to Border Patrol and then U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being detained by authorities. The ICE began the legal process to deport Sanchez. The ordeal began after Sanchez admitted to police that she did not have a Social Security number or driver’s license after being pulled over.

The ICE has been focusing on removing those undocumented immigrants who have criminal records. An ICE spokesman, speaking about the Sanchez case, says that ICE used its discretion to release Sanchez the same day she was detained, because she did not have a criminal record and because her husband was an active duty military service person. However, Sanchez’s attorney argues that Sanchez was able to show authorities a military spouse ID and should not have been taken into detention in the first place. According to Green, an immigration policy was rolled out in 2010 to prevent just this type of incident. That policy, “parole in place,” allows spouses and immediate relatives of US citizens who serve in the US military to apply for legal status without leaving the US. Since Sanchez has been married to Garcia for four years and since he is a member of the military as well as a US citizen, Sanchez could have legal status through her marriage. In fact, the couple was reportedly applying for legal status for Sanchez at the time of her arrest.