Clarisa Mesta allowed to stay in the U.S. after speaking out about her deportation case

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Clarisa Mesta.
Today, Clarisa Mesta joined the ranks of undocumented immigrants who have successfully stopped their deportations after speaking publicly about their cases. Before her hearing in Denver's immigration court this afternoon, the mother of three addressed a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk.

"My name is Clarisa Mesta," she said into a portable microphone. "I am in the process of deportation."

Mesta, a native of Mexico, wound up in deportation proceedings after being pulled over in November 2011.

Her offense? Driving on a mountain road with her brights on. When the officer figured out she was using a false license, she was arrested.

"I was in jail for two days," recalls Mesta, who came to the United States in 2001 to seek a better life for herself and her family. Eventually, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- known as ICE -- came to pick her up. The immigration authorities gave her a choice: leave the U.S. voluntarily or have a judge look at her case. She chose the latter. After paying a $5,000 bond, Mesta was released to await her court date.

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Melanie Asmar
Mesta, with her daughter and youngest son to her right, addresses the crowd.
At first, Mesta was ashamed and hid the fact that she was facing deportation from her extended family. She hired an attorney, who didn't give her much hope that she could stay here with her husband and children, ages seventeen, eleven and three.

But one day last fall, Mesta's mother-in-law heard an announcement on the radio for a hotline for immigrants who'd been racially profiled. Through the hotline, Mesta connected with Jessy Perez, who ran the hotline for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition with the aim of repealing Colorado's so-called "show me your papers" law.

Many of the people who called the hotline were facing the same problem as Mesta; they'd been pulled over, reported to ICE and were now in deportation proceedings. Perez realized that she couldn't just collect their stories and not help them, so she and others began assisting individual immigrants in fighting their deportation cases. Mesta was one of them.

Speaking with Perez and meeting other immigrants in the same situation gave Mesta hope.

"I realized that I'm not the only one going through all of this," she says. "It's good because we started getting connected and we learn about telling our stories without shame. It is still hurtful because I keep thinking, How did this happen to me? The only thing I've done is to work. We know that we're not here legally but we don't do anything wrong, either."

Advocates started a petition asking ICE to grant Mesta prosecutorial discretion, which means her deportation case would be closed. Mesta also reached out to several Colorado lawmakers, including Senator Michael Bennet and Representatives Jared Polis and Diana DeGette, asking them to intervene in her case. She and her family even traveled to Washington, D.C. with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement organization.

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Mesta poses with the judge's order.
Today, as Mesta waited to go before an immigration judge, she hoped all of her advocacy had worked. "While Congress debates the immigration reform bill, we people in removal proceedings need a response right now," she said into the microphone as her family stood by her side. "My children," she added, "that's why I'm here."

Mesta's hearing ended up lasting just a few minutes. Her attorney and the attorney for ICE presented the judge with a joint motion to administratively close her case; Mesta had been granted prosecutorial discretion, after all. The judge quickly signed off on it.

"Good luck to you, ma'am," he said.

Mesta's family quietly filed out of the courtroom and once outside, boisterously kissed and hugged each other in celebration. Clutching the judge's order, Mesta posed for a photograph. "Happy, happy, happy," she said when asked how she was feeling. "We did it."

More from our Immigration archive: "Immigration bill: How would reform measure affect those in deportation proceedings?"


Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com


My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

Do any of you think that if these illegal immigrants get to become citizens that theywill get legitimate jobs easily? They don't have the education or skills and companies will continue to hire OTHER illegal immigrants and we will be left with more residents living off of government subsidies.

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

Those who are ignorant do not see the impact of illegal immigration. I will stay on my "high horse" because I respect our country and the laws that try to keep us in existence.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Hah. As of last year, Colorado residents voted emphatically to essentially BREAK federal law and have it reflected in the state constitution. Every day, the state is "doing something wrong." Derp!

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

You're right, Reuchlein. Breaking the law is breaking the law. Let's see how many of the tens of millions of Americans who frequently flout local and state traffic laws when speeding and other forms of recklessly driving on public streets and highways while trying to save a few seconds or minutes (and thereby needlessly put others at serious risk for injury or death) would willingly turn themselves into the local police. That's what I thought. Now, go take your feigned moral indignation elsewhere, you dolts.

Michael Sink
Michael Sink

get off your high horse Stephan. she is not bothering me, she is not bothering you, and you know it. she is breaking the law, really man? You never broke any laws? Speeding, running red light, etc. If you say no you are full of crap. I know you are only giving your opinion, but as the saying goes. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, and sometimes it stinks! What all us arrogant Americans always seem to forget is in one way, or another we were all immigrants.

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

Manuel, breaking the law is breaking the law, period. maybe go to school to understand.

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

Its ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, there are valid undocumented immigrants who are legitimately seeking asylum.

Stephan Reuchlein
Stephan Reuchlein

NO. "I realized that I'm not the only one going through all of this," she says. "It's good because we started getting connected and we learn about telling our stories without shame. It is still hurtful because I keep thinking, How did this happen to me? The only thing I've done is to work. We know that we're not here legally but we d on't do anything wrong, either." She doesn't even understand that every day she is here she IS doing something wrong, she is breaking the law. I am tired of hearing about laws being broken and no consequences.

Rob French
Rob French

ICE should have deported her immediately, instead of releasing her on bond. She is NOT and "undocumented immigrant" she IS an ILLEGAL ALIEN.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Stephan Reuchlein Thanks for the post, Stephan. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Much appreciated.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Michael Sink Thanks for weighing in, Michael. Much appreciated.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Rob French Strong words, Rob. Thanks for posting.

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