She's a grandmother with no criminal history. Now a Wisconsin woman is fighting deportation even though her attorney says she should not even be on ICE's radar and in the past would not have been arrested.
"She gets very emotional and sad talking about it," a translator told us after we asked Raquel Gutierrez why she fled Nicaragua 11 years ago. Four of her siblings were killed. Raquel had to leave her children behind to build a better future for them in America. "It created a big hole, an emptiness in her," the translator said.
Over the years Raquel brought her children, one by one, to the U.S. Last July, Raquel's daughter and 2-year-old grandson crossed at the Texas border and asked for asylum. The daughter gave authorities Raquel's address as her final destination. A few days later ICE agents showed up at Raquel's home.
"It's the first time she felt this fear," said the translator.
Agents rounded up everyone in the house.
"She felt like dying, and it was worse when they put the handcuffs on her."
Tonight at 10 @tmj4 the I-Team follows the story of a
Wisconsin grandmother appealing her deportation decision.
What do you think? Should immigration agents arrest and deport people here in the U.S. illegally but have no criminal history?
— Courtny Gerrish (@tmj4courtny) February 28, 2018
Raquel sat behind bars for 28 days, before she saw an immigration judge and was able to post bond.
ICE has now started the process to deport her.
Her attorney, Marc Christopher, claimed ICE guidelines have changed dramatically in the past year. Guidelines he said his office is still trying to figure out.
"The guideline is very vague. Before it was very detailed."
Christopher told us ICE used to look at specific crimes, criminal record, time in the U.S. and ties to the community when it was pursuing deportation. Now he says just being here illegally has become an enforcement priority.
"They're in the same situation as people who've committed crimes. That's the difference between a year ago and right now."
We looked at the number of deportations by ICE in 2016 under President Obama compared to 2017 under President Trump. ICE breaks down the numbers by region. Wisconsin's area includes six other states.
In 2016 more than 2,300 people were deported. 695 of those were for non-criminal reasons. In 2017 the total number of people deported more than doubled and so did the non-criminal cases.
Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson says his department holds between 12 to 20 illegal immigrants a year for ICE. He told us that won't change even though his department applied for 287(g) status. A controversial area of immigration law. Waukesha County applied under the jail model meaning only some of its jail staff would have the authority to enforce federal immigration law.
"Nothing changes from the citizens' perspective on how we've been doing business to how we will do business," Severson said.
Raquel is appealing her deportation order and trying not to think about the worst case scenario, being separated from her children again.
We reached out to ICE about its guidelines. A spokesperson told us 92 percent of all illegal immigrants arrested last year were accused of committing a crime.
The agency also said "as ICE leadership has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest."
A deportation case can take years. Raquel's attorney expects a decision in her case in 2022 or 2023. We will continue to follow her through the process.