A west suburban grandmother who has been living in the United States on an expired visa for nearly two decades has been ordered to leave the country by the end of October.
Genoveva Ramirez, 67, waited nearly two hours to meet with officials at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency at their Loop office on Thursday.
While Ramirez, a Berwyn resident, waited inside, anticipation rose outside. Nearly 100 supporters gathered for a protest outside the offices at 101 W. Congress Pkwy., chanting: “Not one more deportation,” and “No hate. No fear. Genoveva is welcome here.”
Ramirez’s grandson, Mariano Castellanos, shyly stood behind a 2-foot-tall “stop deportation” banner.
“I just really don’t want her to go to Mexico again,” Mariano said before turning and hugging his mother, Fernanda Castellanos.
About 2 p.m., Ramirez finally came out, holding back tears. Her attorney, Mony Ruiz-Velasco, said officials told Ramirez that she had to return to them by the end of September with tickets showing she would leave the United States by the end of October.
As soon as Mariano realized his grandmother was being deported, he immediately ran up to her in tears and hugged her. Ramirez tried to comfort him, but Mariano didn’t budge from her waist as Ruiz-Velasco and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., spoke about the next steps.
Ruiz-Velasco, who said Ramirez could be detained at any time, promised that the fight was not over. She said that Ramirez has a pending visa that she applied for a year and a half ago.
“Immigration feels like they can do anything they want. They feel like there are no rules that apply to their cases; they have no discretion. Everyone is a priority to be removed,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “ICE is really out of control. They have zero accountability for anyone.”
Schakowsky, who called Ramirez a “casualty” of the Trump administration, was defiant after hearing that Ramirez was told to leave the country.
“We can’t give up. We won’t give up. We’ll keep fighting,” Schakowsky said. “That’s not the end of the story.”
Castellanos, 30, said she was in disbelief but didn’t want to answer any questions after hearing about her mother’s deportation.
Only Genoveva Ramirez was scheduled to check in but she was joined by 4 other undocumented immigrants: We’re stronger together pic.twitter.com/yQfxHbEc5u — Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) August 31, 2017
Ramirez, the mother of four and grandmother of 10, had been surprised to be summoned to a meeting in May with immigration officials. She originally came to the United States from Mexico in 2001 on a visa that has long since expired, and has been checking in regularly with immigration officials. She was told two years ago her case was a low priority and that she didn’t need to keep coming back.
But at the meeting in May, she was told to return this month.
Ramirez was joined by four other undocumented immigrants from her community who had also been summoned and wanted to meet with a group. They were ultimately split up into individual interviews.
Other supporters included Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who left the agency about an hour before Ramirez came out.
“We just want to make sure that they enforce the law humanely,” Munoz said. “It’s just not fair that people go in to get their driver’s license … and they’re getting detained and deported. That’s just not fair. It’s inhumane and it’s scaring the hell out of neighborhoods like Little Village.”
Protestors continue to yell chants as they await Ramirez and the four others who have been upstairs since 10:30 a.m. pic.twitter.com/c8y6dTHens — Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) August 31, 2017
Immigration enforcement officials had no comment on the case.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito