(Reuters) - Police on Wednesday arrested seven protesters from a group outside a Phoenix immigration center blocking a van carrying a detained woman they saw as an early victim of President Donald Trump’s promise to clamp down on illegal immigration.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a woman from nearby Mesa who has been in the United States since she was 14, was in one of the vans demonstrators blocked for nearly two hours outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) center, media said.
The Obama administration’s policy that focused on deporting criminals had allowed Garcia de Rayos, 36, to stay in the U.S. even after her 2013 arrest by immigration authorities, so long as she checked in with them annually, immigration justice group Puente Arizona said.
Trump, however, has taken a harder line, directing immigration officials to end the practice known as “catch and release” and deport all illegal immigrants instead, even if they have not committed serious crimes or pose any danger.
“We are dealing with a fascist president who is a white supremacist who doesn’t have any kind of consciousness,” Puente Arizona spokeswoman Lucia Sandoval said during a telephone interview from the Phoenix protest site.
“Power to the people...This is what democracy looks like,” protesters chanted, while a man hugged the driver’s side wheel of the van carrying Garcia de Rayos. He was eventually arrested, media said.
A total of seven protesters were arrested, Phoenix police said on social network Twitter.
“Besides the few people engaged in criminal acts, most people out here are peaceful and exercising their rights properly,” they said in a Twitter message.
Garcia de Rayos, a mother of two, was taken into the ICE center and was being held late on Wednesday night, Sandoval said.
“Ms. Garcia de Rayos is currently being detained by ICE based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013,” the agency had told the Los Angeles Times newspaper in a statement earlier.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez