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Despite a last-ditch appeal to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for an extension, a Draper woman who has been living in the United States for the past two decades is being deported back to Colombia.
A sliver of hope had remained for Betty Ramos Castro (also known as Betty Teresa Smithers) Friday morning as advocates and the offices of Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee scrambled for a legal means to prevent her deportation, according to Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) spokeswoman Sharlee Mullins Glenn.
New information provided a "new avenue," said Mullins Glenn, but ICE denied the appeal. She declined to give details of the new information or the new petition, but said Castro "will be able to and definitely will pursue" the new legal avenue from Colombia.
"Our hope was that ICE would be willing to grant an extension so she could return to Utah," Mullins Glenn said.
Castro is a single mother and the sole caretaker for her disabled 18-year-old son, a U.S. citizen with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, according to Mullins Glenn. She also cares for her 86-year-old mother, a legal resident of the U.S. who is working to become a citizen, Mullins Glenn said.
Castro's Friday evening flight to Bogota, Colombia, ends a two-day effort to keep the immigrant in the U.S. after ICE officials ordered her to leave the country.
MWEG and supporters had gathered at the Salt Lake City International Airport Thursday morning to rally in support of Castro remaining in the U.S., as advocates searched for a legal option to prevent her deportation.
After missing her initial flight Thursday morning because of name confusion between her passport and driver license, Castro took a late-evening flight to Orlando, Mullins Glenn said. MWEG waited on "pins and needles" Friday as advocates filed the new appeal, Mullins Glenn said.
Castro had come to the U.S. legally more than 20 years ago with a fiancee visa , but had not gotten married, according to Mullins Glenn. She began the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, Mullins Glenn said, but withdrew her application after she received erroneous information. Castro had apparently been working toward legal residency for years, according to Mullins Glenn, but her attorney was out of the country Thursday.
Castro received a deportation order in 1997, but because of her son's special needs, was permitted to stay in the U.S. and check in with immigration services periodically, Mullins Glenn said.
A federal immigration judge granted her "voluntary departure" in March 1999, according to a news release from ICE, but the voluntary departure order became a final order of removal when she did not leave the country by May 4 of the same year. She was granted deferred action for one year in December 1999, according to ICE's statement.
Between March 2012 and August 2014, ICE approved three of the woman's requests for a one-year stay of deportation, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed.
Last month, ICE informed Castro that its "priorities have shifted," according to Mullins Glenn, and that she must leave the country by April 6.
Rusnok said in a Thursday night email: "Castro has overstayed her original temporary visa by more than 25 years."
Castro was at home Thursday when she received a call at 8:47 a.m., explaining that her request for an extension was denied and she needed to get to the airport, Mullins Glenn said. ICE would not provide her with a reason for the denial, Mullins Glenn added, leaving Castro "extremely disappointed."
The Colombian Consulate in San Francisco has been in touch with Castro and her attorney, and although the consulate couldn't keep her in the U.S., it offered to help her assimilate into Colombia. Castro also has family in Colombia, according to Mullins Glenn.
If the new approach fails from Colombia, Castro's son can submit a request to bring her back to the U.S. when he turns 21, Mullins Glenn said.
"The bottom line," Mullins Glenn said, is that a single mother caring for a disabled son and her 86-year-old mother while displaying exemplary behavior, working and paying taxes, "should never, ever have been targeted for deportation. That just goes against everything that is humane and moral and ethical in our nation."