Deported Fairfield mom reunited with family after 17 months in Mexico

Maribel Trujillo Diaz, the Fairfield mother of four who was deported to Mexico 17 months ago, has been reunited with her family, her legal team announced Monday.

She will be able to remain in the country until a hearing in Cleveland that likely will happen next summer.

Maribel, who goes by Trujillo as a last name, was deported April 19, 2017, to Mexico City. She had lived illegally in this country since 2002.

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Trujillo returned to the country Sept. 10 and was detained in various places, ultimately landing in the Butler County Jail. She had a bond hearing Sept. 19, “and she saw her family that evening,” said Kathleen Kersh, one of her lawyers. An immigration judge released her on $1,500 bond — “that’s the minimum we see these days,” Kersh said.

The reunion with her children “was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time,” said Kersh.

“Her younger son, he just held onto her and wouldn’t let go,” Kersh said. “It just showed that I think the kids really thought this day would never happen — they really might never see their mom again. It just reminded you of how powerful it is to see children reunited with their mother, and how much they need her.”

Kersh, who was present for the reunion, said she believes the children knew she was back in the country but didn’t know they might meet her so soon.

“She started knocking at the door, and was knocking and knocking and knocking, and wouldn’t stop, and so her oldest son, Oswaldo, opened the door and he just jumped on her, and she just wrapped her arms around him, and said, ‘Mi amor’ — ‘my love,’” Kersh said. “And that was about it. After that, it was just tears.”

Oswaldo told the Journal-News shortly after his mother’s deportation that she was taken so suddenly he had not been able to hug her goodbye.

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Some, including state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, have noted that being in the country without permission violates the law, and families are separated all the time when people commit crimes and go to prison or jail.

“You know, these situations are unfortunate, but this is a nation of laws, and this is a state of laws,” Keller previously told the Journal-News. “People have to be held responsible when they break even one law, and if a person is here illegally, they have broken a law. The detail about her having four children, I mean everyone who breaks the law these days just about has children, and if they are put in jail, whether they are here legally or not legally, they’re going to be separated from their children.”

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Trujillo is not necessarily back permanently, but is back to be able to attend her removal proceedings and testify in her case.

“This is not the end of the road,” Kersh said. “But it is a miracle that she is able to at least spend this time with her children while we wait to see what happens with her case.”

The courts in Cleveland are fairly backlogged, Kersh said about the reason Trujillo’s hearing won’t happen until probably next summer, “but it certainly is good that she’ll have this time to spend with her children — when they’re so young, every day counts. She’s extremely grateful for this time.”

Kersh said her legal team waited until Monday to announce Trujillo’s return because they wanted to make sure she would be remaining home with her family.

A “Welcome Home” prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Trujillo’s parish, St. Julie Billiart, in Hamilton.

WATCH: Teen son of Maribel discusses the situation

Trujillo has been seeking asylum, and her case has received attention both nationally and around the world. Her lawyers argued she deserved asylum because she and her family had been targeted by drug-cartel members.

She won a legal appeal in January, when a three-judge panel from the Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals had “abused its discretion” — by failing to sufficiently consider evidence it was provided about the dangers she and her family were facing — and should reconsider her case.

In June, Father Mike Pucke, her former pastor at St. Julie Billiart, told the Journal-News that Trujillo’s lawyers would ask the government to allow her to re-enter the country so she could participate in her own defense before the immigration appeals board in Cleveland.

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“One thing Maribel has said after that night, after she got everything together, is how grateful she has been for the support in the community,” Kersh said. “She always says, ‘I’m so grateful to God, and to all of my angels — she just means everybody who has gone to visit her kids, and help them in any way. The church, the diocese, so many community supporters.”

After Trujillo won her appeal in January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied her lawyers’ first request to have her return for her removal hearing. But a second request “was approved without much of a fight on their part,” Kersh said. “I think they recognized the fact that her case was reopened means that she is much safer here with her asylum claim, and I think they also recognized there’s some legal reasons she should be able to attend her own hearing.”

One reason is that if she didn’t attend the hearing, “she could get ordered removed in absentia if she failed to attend her own removal proceedings,” Kersh said. “We are very happy ICE saw the fairness of that.”