Lawmakers protest possible deportation of Langley Park mother
Rally planned Monday in support of woman arrested for misdemeanor
A protest is planned Monday to fight the possible deportation of a 26-year-old Langley Park mother who was arrested for selling phone cards without a license from her home.
"She's not a threat," said Del. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly. "Should you really be deporting a non-violent mother of three? There are much bigger problems we could be using our resources for."
Four county police officers arrested Florinda Faviola Lorenzo-Desimilian at her apartment in the Gables Residential complex Tuesday night for allegedly selling pre-paid phone cards out of her home. She was charged with doing business without a trader's license, which is a misdemeanor, according to court records.
Police took Lorenzo-Desimilian, who has a 13-month-old baby, a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old, to the county jail, where, under a new cooperation program with the federal government, she was flagged for deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, who picked her up around 11:30 a.m., sources said.
It is unclear why she was flagged, and attempts to reach the ICE public affairs office in Washington, D.C., were not returned this morning.
Police and community activists familiar with the case say that she had overstayed two work visas, which allow residents of other countries to stay in the United States for an allotted period of time.
Police have held her for two days amid protests from several lawmakers and Casa De Maryland, a nonprofit that assists on immigrant issues, who are calling on her release. Casa members said they plan to protest Monday night at the county corrections center in Upper Marlboro.
Lorenzo-Desimilian's children are currently staying with visiting grandparents, Casa officials said. Family members declined a request for comment made through the nonprofit organization.
The case is raising new concerns about the county's Secure Communities initiative, which officials launched in December. Under the program, the county agrees to share fingerprints of charged suspects with the federal immigration department, which can screen for immigration violations. Opponents of the policy say cases like Lorenzo-Desimilian's will become more common.
"There are a lot of concerns from this case. First, we have police arresting people for something silly like this," said Kim Propeack, director of community relations for Casa. "Then, we have our county working to deport people like this."
Propeack and others warned that this incident could erode community goodwill that the county police have worked to establish with the county's north Latino community for years.
"This is going backward instead of forward," she said.
County police said they were unfamiliar with the case Friday and declined to comment immediately. Vernon Herron, the county's public safety director, said the county had no choice to turn her over to federal agents.
"[ICE] filed a detainer. They said they wanted her," Herron said. "We can't pick and choose who to charge with breaking the law."
Lorenzo-Desimilian is currently in ICE custody, officials said.
"Homeland security should be going after terrorists, not people who are making a living," Ramirez said.
As of April 1, Prince George's County's corrections department had turned over 109 foreign-born people to ICE for deportation proceedings. Though the program is supposed to target violent offenders, opponents say people facing minor charges, such as Lorenzo-Desimilian, will get caught up as well.
It is unclear why the woman was taken to the county detention center on the minor charge. Propeack alleges that two other people were charged during the Tuesday raid and were given written citations. Police were unable to give details on Lorenzo-Desimilian's detention by press time.
"This is exactly the kind of case that illustrates how ICE is pouring resources into its least important cases," said Propeack, who added she is concerned that Latinos may soon be profiled by police as potential illegal immigrants.
Opponents want the county to hold off screening for illegal immigrants until after they are convicted of a crime or unless they are charged with a violent offense.
"Go get a real criminal," said Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, who said she also opposes the course of action taken against Lorenzo-Desimilian. "She's not hurting anybody."
E-mail Daniel Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org.