Mother deported from Va. in closely watched immigration fight

WASHINGTON — Following a closely watched immigration fight in Northern Virginia, a mother who had been living illegally in the country has been deported back to her native El Salvador.

Liliana Cruz Mendez was deported Wednesday, June 14, and arrived in El Salvador the following day, according to CASA, a nonprofit group that represented Cruz Mendez.

“We are heartbroken at the way Liliana Cruz Mendez has been ripped from her family after walking in to an ICE check-in out of her own free will,” the group said in a statement. “She had no criminal record, except for a minor traffic violation.”

During a routine check-in in May, Cruz Mendez was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in connection with her 2014 conviction for driving without a license. She received the charge in 2013 after she was pulled over by police for having a broken tail light.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, pardoned Cruz Mendez’s traffic conviction after she was detained last month, in an unsuccessful bid to stop the deportation.

“What I did was do a simple pardon, hoping it may help, realizing that it probably wouldn’t,” McAuliffe told WTOP’s Ask the Governor program. “I at least wanted to lean in.”

The governor said he was, above all, trying to send a message to the Trump administration that Virginia would not tolerate families being “harassed.”

“Why are we doing this to a family?” McAuliffe asked.

Cruz Mendez fled El Salvador when she was a teenager and had been living illegally in the United States since 2006. She has a husband and two young U.S.-born children who are still living in Falls Church, Virginia.

“The decision to deport Liliana Cruz Mendez lays bare the injustice of heartless Trump’s immigration stance, and its lie about making communities safer,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., in a scathing statement.

“Breaking up this Northern Virginia family will not make anyone safer,” Beyer said. “This is not a policy of law and order; it is a policy of xenophobia.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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