Richmond, Va. (Wednesday, May 24, 2017) _ Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today granted a pardon to Liliana Cruz Mendez, a Virginia mother of 2 U.S. citizen children, for her 2014 conviction for driving without a license. Liliana was arrested by immigration officials at her regularly scheduled immigration check-in last Thursday and is being processed for deportation.
Although the pardon is a significant victory in Cruz Mendez’ case, it does not mean she is allowed to go free.
“We think this is a good step in our fight to free Liliana,” said CASA’s Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “With this pardon the governor has sent a clear message the Liliana is not a criminal, as ICE asserts, but rather a loving mother and wife who has been a valuable member of the Virginia community for more than a decade. If their reasoning was that she should be deported because she had a criminal offense, this pardon really weakens the foundation of ICE’s argument.”
The move by Gov. McAuliffe today is the first time a governor has granted a pardon for a CASA client in an immigration case.
Cruz Mendez was caught up in the immigration system after being pulled over by police in Fairfax county in December 2013 for having a broken headlight. When she wasn’t able to produce a driver’s license, police took her into custody and soon after transferred her to immigration officers due to an old deportation order. Since that time, Liliana has twice received a Stay of Removal from immigration officials, allowing her to remain with her family, including her two young children.
CASA immediately filed another stay of removal request after Cruz Mendez was detained on Thursday, but ICE has not made a decision on that request yet.
“It’s clear under the law that they have discretion to grant her request and allow Liliana to remain with her family,” said Nick Katz, Senior Manager for Legal Services. “This is a text book example for why we have discretion based on humanitarian concerns.”
Cruz Mendez, a mother to two children, 4 and 10 years of age, has no other criminal convictions. Her husband has work authorization in the United States and her in-laws are legal permanent residents.