Utah activist faces deportation, fears violence if forced to return to Mexico

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utah Latinx community leaders, members, and allies plan to rally in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office Friday in support of Cecilia Figueroa, a long-time advocate and activist who faces deportation next week.

According to a press release, Figueroa could be sent back to Guerrero, an area she calls ‘a violent region of Mexico’ unless she can convince federal authorities to grant her a ‘reasonable fear interview’ to remain in Utah while attorneys advocate for her case.

Members of Comunidades Unidas (CU) said Figueroa, 55, has been providing health education to the Latinx community and promoting the rights of immigrants through their organization for six years. They said she was detained Monday during a routine appointment at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Utah.

“Utah has supported reforming national immigration policies for a decade, but still nothing has changed. In this case, Figueroa had obtained a work permit and was seeking a green card when her attorney filed the wrong paperwork resulting in the expedited deportation order,” said Francisca Figueroa, development and communications associate for CU. “It is time for our leaders to take the lead in the national discussion creating meaningful change that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the 100,000 Utahns that need it.”

Figueroa is currently the health outreach coordinator under a work permit for Comunidades Unidas. The group said she trains dozens of women in Utah to be trusted community leaders who help families in their neighborhood in enrolling their children in school, improving their health through classes and programs, access education and financial literary courses.

“Cecilia is a tireless advocate for others,” said Luis Garza, executive director of CU. “Because of her work, thousands of Utahns are living healthier, happier and fuller lives. We simply couldn’t do our work without people like Cecilia.”

Additionally, she also leads the Utah Public Health Association’s Community Health Workers. Prior, she was a student and health educator at the Guadalupe School, an elementary school and community center in the Rosepark area of Salt Lake City.

“We are urging federal authorities to carefully examine her case, since she will face a serious risk of violence if forced to return to Guerrero, Mexico,” organizers said in the press release. “One of her nephews was kidnapped and murdered after the family paid a ransom. Armed gunmen kidnapped her brother-in-law, forcibly entering her sister’s home and threatening her family.”

Immigration attorneys believe Figueroa has a strong case for asylum based on the violence experienced by her family in her home state. They said federal law requires the asylum office to offer an interview to any individual fearing return to their country. If her case is determined to be legitimate, her deportation will be delayed while officials take a closer look at her situation.

Comunidades Unidas will hold a rally in defense of Figueroa on Friday at 10 a.m. The event will take place at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Office on 2975 Decker Lake Drive in West Valley City. Donations are also accepted here.

“Cecilia has dedicated her life to helping our community,” says Maria Montes, community engagement and advocacy coordinator for CU. “She’s a truly selfless woman who is an asset to all Utahns, helping our families be healthier and stronger. We must fight to keep her here, rather than sending her to face violence in Mexico.”


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