Colorado congressman: “Rogue” ICE agent drove Denver immigrant into sanctuary

The decision to deny Denver immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra a stay of deportation, driving her into sanctuary in a church basement, was the work of a “rogue” ICE agent who broke with agency protocol, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis told media today.

“Normally it would be a very routine thing [for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE] to say okay, we won’t deport you because you’re here waiting on your legal status,” Polis explained during a visit with Vizguerra in the First Unitarian church in downtown Denver, where Vizguerra has taken sanctuary. She has had an application for a U Visa — given to victims of violent crimes — pending for more than a year.

Instead, Polis said, ICE agent Jeff Lynch “has broken with what the agency normally does” by refusing to grant Vizguerra the stay of deportation she sought earlier this month.

The decision to name the agent involved was a considered one: “We made a point of naming the rogue ICE official,” Polis said, “and we will be encouraging ICE in Washington and the Department of Homeland Security to look into the conduct of this rogue employee.”

Asked how he knew that Lynch was a “rogue” employee and not simply operating under the instructions of a new administration, Polis said. “We certainly hope that that’s not the case.” At least for now, he said, the actions of Lynch are “unprecedented” and a departure from the agency’s stated guidelines.

Polis says ICE has so far been “extremely unresponsive” to his office. ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok told The Colorado Independent that the agency is currently working on a response to the congressman’s remarks today. This story will be updated when that statement becomes available.

Polis has been working with Vizguerra and her attorney Hans Meyer on this case for more than four years. Meyer said that the local ICE office has refused to provide documentation explaining its actions, a move he said “causes us major concerns, because it seems to indicate that there is some sort of personal ICE vendetta against Jeanette Vizguerra.”

In response to ICE’s recent actions, Polis, who represents Colorado’s 2nd district, will work with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette to request a formal deferral of action while Vizguerra awaits news of her visa.

In the meantime, Vizguerra is living full time in the church basement. Her children visit on the weekends, but she is apart from them throughout the week while they are in school.

She sleeps in a former archive room that has been reserved as a place for sanctuary since 2013. Both Vizguerra and immigrant Arturo Hernandez Garcia have previously taken refuge in the church.

Vizguerra, 45, is originally from Mexico, but she has lived in Denver for nearly 20 years, working as a janitor and labor organizer and volunteering with several progressive groups.In 2009, she was pulled over for a traffic violation and later convicted of using a false Social Security number and eventually was ordered deported. She regularly checked in with immigration officials and was granted at least five stays of removal. Under the Obama administration, she was not considered a priority for deportation. 

“This moment is very bad for me,” Vizguerra told the assembled media, who crowded around with notepads, microphones and large TV cameras. Today marked more than two weeks in sanctuary, and though she appeared exhausted, she maintained her stoic and determined tone.

While her young grandson Santiago crawled on her lap, she said, “This state is my home. And I will continue working to change this immigration system. My family need[s] me, and I need my kids.”


Photo credit: Allen Tian, The Colorado Independent


  1. So is THIS the kind of action that makes America GREAT again? I’m just wondering, because it doesn’t seem that great to me, but I could be missing some huge reason to be rejoicing, here. I’d hate to deprive myself of that.

    But how does THIS type of mean spirited, harsh action come across as anything but cowardly, xenophobic and nasty? The people they are screwing with are NOT criminals, these are regular people who are just doing what people have done here for hundreds of years, trying to make a better life for themselves and their kids.

    And so with a new president, the entire country does a pivot into fascism and xenophobia that we haven’t seen here and DON’T need. And just WHERE does it stop? At what point do these VERMIN decide who is and isn’t good enough for THEIR America? Who is to decide what the marker is for “good enough”? At this point, it’s only those who MIGHT have a foreign sounding name, especially those who sound MEXICAN (paying attention, Don Lopez?), who are really at risk, though anyone who looks or sounds Muslim is also in danger.

    This is NOT how a GREAT country acts. This is how a small minded, frightened LITTLE country acts. Cute how all it took was ONE election to turn us into THIS.

    Thanks, republicans. THIS is YOUR doing. I hope you’re happy about it, because the rest of us WHO AREN’T INSANE don’t like this at all. You’ve turned this country into a trash heap, and it’s taken you less than 2 MONTHS to do it. THIS is GREAT? I don’t think so. This is a freaking debacle.

  2. Your welcome! It states she was “convicted of using a false Social Security number”. What about the person whose number she was using? That American citizen has to deal with having his/her life ruined by this illegal alien. This is absolutely making America great again! Let’s throw all of these criminals out!

  3. It’s called FRAUD and it is a CRIME. Although I realize for the past 8 years our country has been lawless, this time is now over.

    We elceted a man who has no one in his pocket, needs no facors and ownes nothing. Finally a man working for us, We the People in our country governed by law. Why is this tragic? Honestly, I do not understand Democrats, Liberals, Leftist and Feminist. You’ve all lost your minds.

  4. Glad you’re so freaking proud of yourself. When Rump and his buddies decide that YOU aren’t American enough, don’t come running to me to protect you. You don’t deserve it.

    You righties are the most terrified, annoyingly loud and obnoxious people in the country. You’re afraid of those who have so much less power than you and you blame them for everything bad in this country. I’d look in the mirror first if I were you.

    You want to make America great AGAIN. When did it STOP? Let me guess. When the black man went to live in the white house. That sure seems to be when you righties decided you hate America. That’s when a dropping crime rate became a flood of crime. It’s when an improving economy with the longest run of job creation in our history become a failing economy. You are safer now than you’ve been in your life, and yet you live in constant fear of everyone and everything. Living in abject, self induced fear makes us great? When did we EVER act like such a country of frightened CHILDREN and think this was great? This is pathetic and childish. There is NOTHING great about this, and all it does is make us look small, petty, mean and reactionary to nonexistent problems. Some greatness.

    Take pride in what embarrasses any sane American. Anyone who thinks THIS is making us great has a very sick and twisted idea of great. Your cowardice and childishness is pathetic. And so is that of your president. But go ahead, be proud of your childishness, your lack of humanity, even. And when it comes down to YOUR butt being in the sling, look at yourself and wonder how this happened. I won’t. I KNOW how it happens. And that’s why you disgust me. Both as an American and as a HUMAN BEING.

  5. And I don’t understand those who see using a fraudulent SS card as worse than the treason of having sold out your country to the Russians. And for the record, nearly 11 MILLION MORE of us DIDN’T “elect” Rump as president, and we’re NOT happy with what he’s doing.

    Rump has Putin’s fist up his butt, and you support that.

    You think it’s been lawless here? REALLY? Obama is the first president since Nixon WITHOUT a special prosecutor being assigned to keep track of his nonsense. What EXACTLY are you calling lawless? I would consider congress being nothing but obstructionist, to the point of denying a standing president a SCOTUS nomination to be pretty lawless, is THAT what you’re talking about?

    You’re heading into the most LAWLESS times we’ve ever seen in the government. You listen to LIARS FOOLS and TRAITORS. And YOU don’t understand me. I don’t understand YOU at all, and I NEVER will. You vote for someone who opens up the racism and fear that this country has been trying to eradicate for a generation and who promises you a fascist regime. Then you wonder why you’re under a fascist regime.

    People like you are complete fools. Your republican congress started off by trying to GUT any ethics board it had going. So much for keeping THEMSELVES honest. And you wonder why I don’t vote for fascists.

    I wonder who taught you how to think. They owe you your money back.

  6. NO ONE is a illegal immigrant because we are ALL immigrants, we all have immigrant blood in us so how can a human being be “Illegal” Also God made ALL of the earth for US to roam not just some ALL to roam freely, freely as God allows the birds to roam without “Papers” even the bible begs the question: Behold the fowls of the air Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 6:26 Also Americans didnt make Amercia or build America immigrants did !!


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