A Saint Michael woman has been deported to Mexico, despite last-ditch efforts by friends, loved ones and members of Congress to stop it.
The family of Sara Munoz Gonzalez wept openly upon learning she had been moved from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Bloomington to the airport while they made their case.
"She has nothing there. No house, nothing in Mexico," Sara's husband Nixon Avendano told reporters after getting the bad news.
"Sara lived here for 15 years in Minnesota, and worked hard for the family. Now the send her back."
Munoz Gonzalez came to Minnesota 15 years ago on a visa, but stayed long after it expired and was ordered to leave the country several years ago. She married Avendano, an immigrant from El Salvador, in 1993 and has since had five children who are all American citizens by virtue of being born here.
"They are members of our church, hard working people who have lived responsible lives, paid their taxes and taken care of their family," Sister Margaret McGuirk of Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis said.
"No one wants to break the law. If there were a path to proper documentation this family would have done it a long time ago."
Sara's husband Nixon Avendano tried to hand-deliver a letter from Congressman Keith Ellison to local Homeland Security field office director Scott Baniecke. Ellison's letter asked to take into consideration that Sara's youngest child, four-year-old Edwin, has special medical needs.
He's autistic and has speech and behavior problems, making him more dependent on his mother according to his doctor.
"She helps him talk and keep his anger under control," older sister Joanna Avendano said.
"It's difficult without our mom because my little brother is ill. They don't care what's going on with my brother. All we're asking is to have our mom back, that is it."
Security guards would not allow Nixon Avendano or his entourage past the checkpoint inside the main door. They said they didn't have an appointment with Baniecke and recommended Nixon drop the letter in the mail.
They also rebuffed Nixon's request to have Baniecke come downstairs and receive the letter. The group finally handed the letter to an I.C.E. police officer, who assured them she would give it to her supervisor.
Local peace activists, upon learning the Congressman's letter made no difference, decided to sit down in front of the Homeland Security bus parked behind the building. They hoped to block the bus from leaving with Gonzalez even if it meant being arrested.
But there were many other ways in and out of building, and soon word came that Sara Gonzalez had been moved to the airport already.
"This is very heartless," Alondra Espejel of the Immigrant Freedom Network told reporters outside the I.C.E. headquarters.
"We need a better system, a better immigration system. We cannot keep dividing families like this."
Immigration officials would not comment about the case on camera, telling KARE 11 news they're only enforcing a judge's order. They did point out, however, that Gonzalez had many opportunities to leave the country voluntarily after losing her last appeal.
Local I.C.E. director Tim Counts said that Gonzalez made things worse for herself along the way by using a different name and listing Guatemala as her country of origin instead of Mexico.
While family members cried and embraced each other, little Edwin could be seen running around grabbing rocks and opening mail slots apparently oblivious to the situation at hand.
"My dad is trying to communicate with him, explaining things little by little," Joanna said.
"And sooner or later he might figure out what’s going to be happening."
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)