A married couple with two children were protesting the foreclosure of their home in North Hollywood on February 22, when the unthinkable happened.
Blanca Cardenas, a 37-year-old mother with a 19-month-old baby girl, was arrested by LAPD officers for trespassing at the property. According to her U.S. citizen husband, Gerardo Quinones, she was hauled down to the Van Nuys station, where she posted $1,000 bail -- "but they didn't let her leave."
Cardenas stayed in LAPD custody for one week, until yesterday...
... when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement picked her up at the Lynwood station. Within hours, says Quinones, she was on a bus to the border.
ICE gave the Weekly this statement on Cardenas' deportation:
Ms. Cardenas Flores was removed to Mexico at approximately 5:15 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 29) after coming into ICE's custody earlier in the day. Cardenas Flores was previously removed from the United States in 2002. ICE reinstated her prior order of removal, paving the way for her repatriation Wednesday afternoon. ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.
Quinones explains that about 10 years ago, his wife "had to go to Mexico for a problem with the family." When she tried to cross again, she was arrested and thrown back over the border. Quinones says she eventually made it home to her family in L.A. (illegally), but never went to court.
So -- despite ICE's promise not to deport mothers of small babies, spouses of U.S. citizens, etc. -- officers apparently felt Cardenas' inability to obtain citizenship made her a danger to the community.
Then there was the foreclosure last week.According to Quinones, he and his wife were "in a fight" with Bank of America over their home. The couple filed for bankruptcy, believing that would protect them from the foreclosure. But he claims then Bank of America resold the home, and the new owner reported Cardenas and Quinones for trespassing.
"She tried to show [the police] paperwork that shows she is the legal owner of the property," says Quinones. "And she refused to leave the house."
Which led to her arrest -- and eventual deportation.
Here's a heartbreaking news report from Estrella TV, shot one day before Cardenas was kicked out of the country, when there was still hope:
Quinones is in San Ysidro at the moment, meeting some TV news reporters before going to see his wife in Rosarito.
His most disconcerting claim is that ICE officers refused Cardenas her right to an attorney, and that she never signed any papers. ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice has not confirmed or denied that allegation.
Meanwhile, Occupy L.A. -- which has thrown itself behind both the housing-bubble and illegal-immigration debates -- is mobilizing. At 6 p.m. tonight, protesters will meet at Senor Fish Restaurant downtown to plan a "major march" in outrage of Cardenas' deportation.