St. Julie Billiart Church officially welcomed back Fairfield mother Maribel Trujillo Diaz on Tuesday with a Prayer of Thanksgiving Service for one of its former, and once-again, volunteer readers of Scriptures during Masses. After she made a statement in English and Spanish about her 17-month deportation to Mexico and separation from her family, the crowd of about 75 stood and applauded.
But that response was quiet compared to what happened at St. Julie’s on Sunday, when the mother of four, who goes by the last name of Trujillo, appeared at the church unannounced.
“A few minutes before Mass, Maribel and her family came in the door,” Father Mike Pucke said. “As they started walking into the gathering area of the church, all of a sudden a couple of our women who are ministers started screaming. They couldn’t believe it.”
“Maribel! Maribel! Maribel!” the astonished women yelled, because many thought Trujillo, whose children range from ages 5 to 16, would never be readmitted to the country.
Trujillo, after posting $1,500 bond, had quietly reunited with her family Sept. 19 after being deported in April 2017. On Monday, her advocates announced she was back home.
“Now I believe that the Lord is strengthening my family to heal and restore us,” she said, reading a statement during the service. “The Lord performed this miracle for us so that the whole world knows that God is alive and that even today he continues performing miracles.”
She said she spent her time in Mexico in fervent prayer, and during prayers she saw the Holy Family entering her family’s Fairfield home, giving her confidence the family was receiving protection from above.
“Thanks be to God I am with my family, for how long only God knows,” Trujillo said. “Returning home, to say that I am happy is not sufficient. I am thankful to the Virgin Mary and all the angels both in heaven and on earth.”
But not everybody is sympathetic to Trujillo’s situation.
“The reason why it’s important to come here legally in the first place, and why illegal immigration is always a bad idea is eventually it will catch up with you,” said Dave Ray, director of communications with the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR advocates for reducing legal immigration levels of about more than 1 million per year from around the world to closer to 300,000 annually.
“You don’t want to spend a lifetime looking over your shoulder, wondering if you’re going to be deported, or in fear of being deported if you’re pulled over by the police, then the simple answer is to wait your turn in line and come to the country through the legal immigration system, which is incredibly generous,” Ray said.
He said 1.1 million people “come here every year and never spend a second looking over their shoulder, wondering if they’re going to be having an encounter with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”
FAIR has always opposed amnesty for so-called “Dreamers” — young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children — because it only encourage future illegal immigration “when you reward illegal activity,” Ray said.
Trujillo’s four children were all born in America, after she illegally arrived in the country in 2002.
After Tuesday’s service, one of Trujillo’s free-of-cost lawyers, Kathleen Kersh of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, said because Trujillo’s deportation is under appeal, and Cleveland immigration courts are backlogged, she may be able to stay until next summer, or perhaps years, until her case is decided. That’s partly because courts have placed greater priority on returning people who have been living here for short periods of time.
Trujillo became an ABLE client in 2015, after losing her asylum case in Cleveland immigration court. Advocates identified her as a candidate for “prosecutorial discretion” under the Obama Administration’s policies, which placed lower priority on deporting those who, like Trujillo, had no criminal record “and because she was the mother of four U.S.-citizen children, one of whom was suffering from reoccurring seizures,” Kersh said.
St. Julie of Billiart parishioners and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati would eventually send thousands of letters on her behalf, and she was granted prosecutorial discretion in March of 2016, allowed to stay in the country another year at least.
But in March 2017, with new Trump Administration policies in place, she attended a required visit with immigration agents and was told she would be deported soon. She was apprehended by immigration agents outside her home April 6, 2017, and was deported 13 days later.
Advocates elsewhere in Ohio held protests on her behalf, and her case attracted national and international press coverage.
She was able to return to the United States this month because a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court ruled that an immigration appeals board in Cleveland had not given proper consideration to evidence that her family was being targeted by drug cartels in Mexico. She was allowed to return to be able to attend her deportation hearing, when it happens.
“For the past 17 months, in concert with St. Julie Church, thousands of Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have been praying and sending their thoughts and concern to Maribel and her family,” Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocese’s Catholic social action, said Tuesday. “I, on behalf of the archdiocese, want to share our sense of joy to see you here, Maribel, and the blessing that it is to so many of us who have been praying for you all along.”
“There are many Maribels in our community, and we continue to be close to them and in solidarity with them, with our partners in other faith communities who continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.