SALT LAKE CITY — A West Valley mother set to be deported to Mexico has received last-minute permission from a judge to remain in the U.S.
Silvia Avelar-Flores, 31, was granted an additional 90 days in the country by an immigration court Thursday afternoon and was released from jail, federal officers said in a prepared statement.
"We are overjoyed," said Sharlee Mullins Glenn, of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.
Glenn said Avelar-Flores qualifies for protection under a federal program allowing two-year deferred deportation and work permits to those whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children.
Avelar-Flores was being held in the Cache County Jail after federal immigration agents detained her April 28. She was making a shopping trip for birthday party supplies with her 8-year-old daughter when officers approached her, Glenn said.
On Wednesday, family members and Mormon Women for Ethical Government held a tearful vigil for the mother of three at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in West Valley City.
ICE officials said Wednesday that Avelar-Flores "has been under final orders of removal for about 20 years."
ICE said Avelar-Flores first came to the United States in April 1993 on a six-month visa but remained after it expired. She was 7 years old at the time.
Two years later, a federal judge ordered her to leave. And an immigration appeals board upheld the directive in 1997. ICE agents arrested Avelar-Flores last week based on those orders from decades earlier, said agency spokesman Carl Rusnok.
A search of state court records shows Avelar-Flores' criminal history in Utah is limited to vehicle and driver's license offenses, and a city ordinance violation. None of her convictions rises above a class C misdemeanor. A federal court database search yielded no results.
Rusnok said Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has made it clear ICE will not grant entire groups immunity from immigration enforcement. Previously, those caring for youngsters, the elderly or sick people often received exemptions.
But the removal of undocumented immigrants without criminal records "is nothing new," Rusnok said Wednesday, noting that since 2012, "about 41 to 45 percent of total removals had no prior criminal convictions."
Action Utah, another advocacy group, has said Avelar-Flores may have missed a hearing in immigration court that she didn't know about.
Last month, supporters rallied against the deportation of a Draper mother originally from Colombia, but an attempt to secure her a stay was unsuccessful.
Glenn said Avela-Flores and her family were celebrating Thursday and declined to speak to the news media.