An immigrant mother who has lived in Connecticut without documentation for 24 years could be deported as soon as Thursday, leaving her four children behind.
When Nury Chavarria began annual check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2009, she was granted stays of removal year-after-year. She said it was always made clear that because she had kids -- one of whom has significant disabilities -- and no criminal record, her deportation case was just not a priority.
"But not this time," she said. "I went there June 21. Now they said to me, I need to leave the country."
Chavarria escaped violence in Guatemala in 1993 and entered the U.S. illegally. Her request for asylum was denied, and in 1998 she got an order for voluntary deportation but did not leave. Then, according to ICE, she was given a final order of removal in 1999.
Ten years after that, ICE found her in Norwalk working full-time as a house cleaner and the mother of U.S. children. In 2010, federal immigration deferred her removal for one year on humanitarian grounds. Now she’s checking in with ICE once a week.
As she stirred uncomfortably in a chair in her lawyer’s office in New Haven, Chavarria pulled her dress over an ankle bracelet worn by many people facing a final order of removal.
"I feel like a criminal. It’s embarrassing to me. In this hot weather I wear pants because I don’t want people..." she said as her voice trailed off.
Lawyer Glenn Formica said Chavarria’s case is not unique.
"Nury’s case is representative of the fact that last year, [there was] no problem getting her stay renewed. No concerns," he said. "This year, she was given the opportunity to file a stay, but was also told to have a plane ticket."
In a statement, ICE said that Chavarria is being allowed to remain free while she finalizes her departure plans, and that it’s monitoring her compliance.
Under the Obama administration, the deportation policy became known as "felons, not families." The priority was to not break-up families, but to focus on removing gang members and people who presented security risks. President Trump’s new immigration policy essentially eliminates those priorities.
"You can see in the administration's budget that this is something that they wanted to prioritize. They had requested huge increases in funding for interior enforcement," said Kate Voigt, Associate Director of Government Relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "I think we’re at the beginning of seeing them try to carry out those threats."
With her youngest child seated nearby, Chavarria was asked about guardianship plans for her children if she’s deported.
"Not yet. Nothing," she said. "They depend on me. And also they don’t want to come with me to Guatemala. It’s not a good place for them. It’s a hard situation for me and I’m worried about my kids."
Hayley Chavarria, 9, is about to go into fourth grade. When asked if she speaks Spanish at home with her mom, she said, "Most people in my family speak English. But we sometimes speak Spanish for my mom."
Formica said it's just not realistic to imagine that Chavarria would put her children, who are U.S. citizens, on a plane with her back to Guatemala.
"As a country I don’t think we want people just abandoning their children and leaving those children to become public responsibilities," Formica said.
Volunteers with a group called Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible have amassed more than 10,000 signatures on an online petition on Chavarria’s behalf. Nationally, the group stands in opposition to much of the president’s agenda.
If her stay is denied, Nury Chavarria is to board a plane back to Guatemala on July 19.