A single mother who was previously allowed to stay in the country as long as she checked in with immigration officials every year is going to be deported Thursday, according to the office of state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego).
Silvia Ocampo Ortiz had a check-in meeting with immigration officials last week and was detained after years of being permitted to stay, an increasingly familiar story under the Trump administration. After hearing that Ocampo would be deported, Gonzalez Fletcher's office and Unite Here Local 30, the hotel workers union that Ocampo joined in 2000, began rallying the San Diego community to her defense.
"Deporting Silvia Ocampo is heartless and sickening," Gonzalez Fletcher said. "She is a hard-working, taxpaying member of this community and she has two children who are U.S. citizens, including an 8-year-old daughter with special needs. What will happen to her kids after their mother is deported? Are we now a country that takes relish in separating parents from children? I'm absolutely devastated and horrified."
Ocampo came to the U.S. about 24 years ago with her husband and their small child, according to a biographical summary from Unite Here Local 30.
She had three more children in the U.S. Two of them are still minors, and the youngest, her 8-year-old daughter, has a learning disability. According to Unite Here Local 30, Ocampo is crucial support in her daughter's life.
"As of today, her daughter is still unaware where her mother is," the bio from Unite Here Local 30 says. "It is causing her emotional stress not to know what happened to her mother and why she was never picked [up] from school last Wednesday. This has been the longest she has ever been without her mother."
After immigration officials previously became aware of Ocampo's immigration status, they permitted her to stay in the U.S. to take care of her daughter, who is a U.S. citizen, because of her daughter's special needs.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
In 2009, Ocampo and her husband were charged with perjury relating to their driver's license applications, according to the union. The California law allowing unauthorized immigrants to get driver's licenses was still a few years away.
On advice from her lawyer, Ocampo pleaded guilty, not knowing what that felony could mean for her in the immigration system, the union bio says.
Her husband was deported, leaving her pregnant with their daughter. Since then, Ocampo has raised the family on her own.
Ocampo had yearly check-ins with immigration officials. When she went for her appointment in July, they told her to come back in three months instead of a year. When she showed up Oct. 11, she was taken to Otay Mesa Detention Center.
She has tried over the years to appeal her conviction, and she has a court date at the end of October to try to reopen her criminal case, the union said.
"We are outraged that ICE would take a single mother of a special needs child away from her family," said Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30. "They are heartlessly deporting Silvia right before a court date that could enable her to remain here with her children. Tearing apart families is the real crime here."
Ocampo's attorney was unavailable for comment.
If Ocampo is deported, her 27-year-old nephew will likely take custody of her children, the union said.
Some immigrants in similar situations to Ocampo have stopped showing up to their check-in meetings with immigration officials. One woman took refuge in a Colorado church rather than show up for what she assumed would be her deportation.
Unite Here Local 30 is planning to rally on Thursday for Ocampo but had not released details