A federal judge in Tucson on Tuesday ordered the deportation of Alejandra Pablos, a well-known immigration- and reproductive-rights activist.
Speaking to a courtroom packed with Pablos’ supporters, immigration Judge Thomas Michael O’Leary denied Pablos’ asylum request and ordered her removed from the United States. Pablos said she plans to appeal the decision.
Pablos, 33, feared she would be targeted for persecution in Mexico, where abortion is largely illegal and activists she knows have received death threats.
“If I see injustices, I’m going to speak out against them,” she testified at the hearing Tuesday.
She testified she was born in Nogales, Sonora, but was brought to the United States as a baby and eventually became a legal permanent resident.
“I’ve been living here since I was a baby, and Arizona is the place where I’ve grown up and learned how to fight for our rights,” Pablos, who is not in custody, said in a news release after the hearing.
“I will continue to fight for my right to stay here, to speak out about my story. This is not the end of our fight,” she said.
Pablos’ immigration status was put in question as a result of several criminal convictions from 2005 to 2010, including a DUI, endangerment, aggravated DUI and solicitation to possess a dangerous drug.
Pablos told O’Leary the offenses came during a turbulent time in her life that involved changing schools, the suicide of her best friend’s brother and falling in with a bad crowd. Pablos said she wished she could “take it all back.”
After serving two years in a detention center in Eloy and seeing women in far worse circumstances , she said she underwent a “complete transformation” and started her political activism.
O’Leary disagreed, saying, “For right now, her past haunts her.”
Pablos has not reformed and her criminal record is “deserved,” O’Leary said.
He acknowledged Pablos was a “public figure” and “never truly lived in Mexico,” but he denied her asylum claim as well as her request made under an international convention against torture.
O’Leary said activists for reproductive rights in Mexico are not an established group in need of protection under the asylum statute. O’Leary also said he found “no clear indication” thatPablos would face persecution in Mexico for her political activism.
Pablos’ case is known across the country, particularly after she was arrested in January during a protest at a Department of Homeland Security building in Virginia.
“It was a peaceful protest,” she told O’Leary. “I was leading chants and I was the only one arrested.”
Two months later, Pablos was detained during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Pablos was detained at an immigration detention center in Eloy for 43 days. An online petition for her release was signed by nearly 24,500 people.
Pursuant to an immigration judge’s bond order, Pablos was released from ICE custody in April, according to ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe.
Pablos said the misdemeanor charges of trespassing and obstructing justice from the Virginia protest were dismissed.
In a May 15 news report, her defense attorney told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the charges would be dismissed at an October hearing if Pablos did not commit any crimes in the meantime.
Pablos’ supporters said in news releases this week that she is one of at least five immigrant-rights activists arrested after speaking out against the Trump administration’s hard-line policies on asylum and immigration.
ICE “does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make,” according to Pitts O’Keefe.
“Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate,” she said.
As Pablos pursues her appeal, nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition asking Gov. Doug Ducey to pardon her and erase the criminal convictions that contributed to her deportation order.
Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar