No word on Landa |

No word on Landa

Craig immigrant could face 20 years

Michelle Balleck

A Yampa woman has volunteered to help the Landa family secure the release of their wife and mother, Rita Landa, from an Aurora immigration detention center.

Linda Valenzuela-Hawkins of Yampa read the story about Landa, an illegal immigrant working to get her temporary residency, in Wednesday’s Craig Daily Press, and she was outraged.

“It’s just wrong what they’re doing,” Valenzuela-Hawkins said. “That whole thing stinks to high heaven. They were led to believe she was going to get her green card, and then they arrested her. They lied to get her up there.”

She thinks Immigration and Customs Enforcement set up Rita and her husband, Alvaro “Al” Landa when they invited the couple to Denver for an interview with Citizenship and Immigration Services last week.

Al and his brother gained their permanent residency through their father. Al and Rita’s two daughters are U.S. citizens because they were born in the United States.

While at the interview, Rita was taken into another room and detained. She is being held at the Geo Group Inc. ICE detention center in Aurora, awaiting possible deportation.

Valenzuela-Hawkins is familiar with the system, as she served as a sponsor for many immigrants in California. Her brother is a former Immigration and Naturalization Service lawyer. She wanted to help Rita by becoming her sponsor.

“You’re responsible for their teaching,” Valenzuela-Hawkins said. “I certainly would uphold the law and make sure she did the things she needs to do.”

But ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said that’s no longer an option because of her former deportations. Because this is her third offense, there is a 10-year bar against Rita returning to the United States legally. She could face 20 years in prison for the felony offense of returning to the states after being deported.

He would not comment about when Rita would be deported or whether the government would press charges.

“All I can say is that it’s a possibility,” he said. “It may not be a strong possibility, but it’s a possibility.”

Al said he spoke with Rita Wednesday evening, while she was at the detention center. She was told she would be deported Thursday, but she put in a request to stay longer. She still was being held at the detention center Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, Al is having community members sign a petition encouraging Rita’s release.

Moffat County Commis–sioners Saed Tayyara and Tom Gray have been offering to make calls on Al’s behalf.

Al worries his family will be separated by the deportation, because he no longer has family in Mexico.

Rusnok said Al and his family could be united even if Rita is deported. “They could be together,” he said, “just not in the United States.”

Al said he has made his life here and is active in the community. He said he works, pays taxes and has health insurance, “so I’m not mooching off the government.”

He wishes there was some compromise in this situation, so Rita could return home.

Rusnok likened Rita’s crime to a bank robbery, in which a family is not separated by a conviction, but rather, a person simply is serving the time for his or her crime.

“These are laws passed by Congress,” Rusnok said. “Our job is to enforce those immigration laws. This is a consequence she’s suffering from her own actions. This is not something the government is imposing on her.”

Valenzuela-Hawkins ex–pres–sed her concern for Rita’s daughters, Abigail, 11, and Jerzey, 4.

“These two babies need their mom,” she said. “It’s hard because I understand her need to be with her children. I just wish she would have done it legally.”

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