Officials: Craig resident Rita Landa deported |

Officials: Craig resident Rita Landa deported

Michelle Balleck

Craig resident Rita Landa was deported to Mexico on Tuesday, Immi-gration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

Landa had been held at an ICE detention enter in Aurora for two weeks. “She’s happy to get out of that hole,” her husband, Alvaro “Al” Landa said.

On Aug. 10, Al and Rita went to Denver for what the Landas thought would be a temporary residency interview with Citizenship and Immigration Services. But during the process, ICE officials took her into custody. This marks her third illegal immigration offense, after returning to the United States twice after previous deportations.

ICE staff transport illegal immigrants to Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Rita then will return to her home in Degollado, Jalisco, Mexico, Al said.

She still has family there, and Al plans to send the couple’s daughters, Abigail, 11, and Jerzey, 4, there to live with their mother. He will continue to work and live in Craig.

“I asked Abby if she wanted to stay with Dad,” Al said. “She said she wants to go with her mom. I think that’ll be the best for right now.”

Al said his lawyer’s firm, Lichter and Associates in Denver, is collecting documents, tape recordings and other materials pertinent to the case. Al said this process could take as long as a year. Then the lawyers will decide whether there is any legal action that can be taken.

Attorney Heide Bryan said she suspects the government will not press charges because Rita is no longer in the country, but does not know for sure.

“My plan is I’m just going to leave Rita down there until my lawyer has a chance to see what she can do,” Al said, “and see if we have a fighting chance.”

To offset these costs, community members set up the Al and Rita Landa Legal Defense Fund at the Moffat County National Bank.

“Some money is coming in,” said John Ponikvar, bank investor and director and Al’s employer. “We just hope that we have an opportunity to make a difference with that.”

Al has translated in the past for Margaret Choi of Lau & Choi, another Denver-based immigration law firm. Choi also looked at Rita’s situation for Al.

“The laws are just way too harsh right now,” he said. “She just told me Rita’s probably going to be barred (from the U.S.) for life.”

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.