María Maturino never imagined she might not see her 22-year-old son again in America because of a traffic stop.
“Ma, state police stopped me,” says a text that Jesús Vasquez sent her Saturday afternoon. That was the last time Maturino heard from him.
State troopers pulled over Vasquez for having dark window tint on his vehicle in the Montana Vista area, where he had been raised since he was brought illegally from Mexico to the U.S. as a child.
When Department of Public Safety troopers discovered Vasquez did not have a driver’s license or any form of ID, they called Border Patrol agents, who arrested him.
Now Vasquez is on the brink of deportation.
The Border Network for Human Rights, family members and friends called Monday for the immediate release of Vasquez, who they said doesn’t represent a threat to the public or national security.
“This is an injustice. My son is not a criminal,” Maturino said of her son, adding that Vasquez has never been in trouble.
Family and friends say they consider Vasquez a good man, a hard worker and a devoted father of a 4-year-old girl, a U.S. citizen. They said he planned to save up money to marry his girlfriend, also a U.S. citizen.
“I have known ‘Chuy’ for years and never thought something so unfair like this could happen to him,” said Ricardo Andrade, who knows Vasquez from Mountain View High School and a soccer team he plays on.
Fernando García, director of the border network, said Vasquez’s arrest and detention are clear examples of the current anti-immigration political climate.
“This is a difficult situation, not only for Vasquez’s family, but for all our immigrant communities, because it seems that nowadays all immigrants are targets of (President Donald) Trump’s immigration enforcement,” he said.
Last month the Department of Homeland Security issued a sweeping set of orders that implement Trump’s plan to increase immigration enforcement, placing the vast majority of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.
The memos instruct all agents — including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to identify, capture and quickly deport the undocumented immigrants they encounter. That includes immigrants who have been charged or convicted of any crime, as well as those who commit even minor traffic offenses.
The memos, however, do not impact the protections granted by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to more than 750,000 immigrants brought illegally to the country as children. Participants in the program are known as Dreamers.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program remains in place, although immigrants in the program can be deported if they commit a crime or are a threat to the public or national security.
Although he could have benefited from DACA, Vasquez did not apply for the program because of financial reasons, Maturino said.
“He had to support his child and has not found the ways to apply,” she said.
But even if Vasquez were under DACA protection, the program does not bar Dreamers with no criminal history from deportation.
García pointed out cases of Dreamers who have been arrested, including a 23-year-old man arrested earlier in February in a Seattle suburb by immigration agents who initially arrived to detain his father and a 22-year-old woman arrested last week in Mississippi after speaking at a news conference.
But what is worse, he said, is that state and local police are enforcing federal immigration laws — in this case state troopers.
“It is very worrying, the rhetoric that we see in Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott seems to be proud of being an immigration champion of having state and local police enforcing immigration laws,” García said.
Border network officials said state troopers pulled over Vasquez at Greg Road, a county street within the Montana Vista community, which makes it seem they were targeting undocumented immigrants.
“There is no doubt that state troopers are doing immigration work,” García said.
Messages to the local DPS office were not returned.
Ramiro Cordero, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, said agents stationed in the Ysleta area received an assistance call from state troopers requesting the agency’s support.
When Border Patrol agents arrived, they were informed Vasquez had violated traffic laws and did not had a valid ID. Agents found that Vasquez is a Mexican national who had been living illegally in the United States, Cordero said.
Currently, Vasquez is under ICE custody and is awaiting a hearing with an immigration judge, García said.
Immigration lawyer Carlos Spector, who is representing Vasquez, could not be reached for comment.
The border network is working to educate immigrants about their rights and on a community program called “Migra Watch” to document immigration arrests by federal, local or state law enforcement. The documentation could be videos or photographs of incidents, like the one of Vasquez’s arrest.
Maturino said a Montana Vista neighbor, who was driving along Greg Road, shot a couple of brief videos of Vasquez’s arrest with her cellphone.
In one of them, Vasquez is handcuffed and surrounded by state troopers and Border Patrol agents.
Maturino said she is worried that Vasquez will end up in a country where he has not been since he was 6 years old.
She said the only family they have live in Chihuahua City, where her family emigrated from because of lack of security and work.
“We came here (to the United States) to be part of the American Dream, but it seems that dream is becoming a nightmare,” she said.