[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]eing a selfless motel worker cleaning up after homeless veterans during a pandemic will not save you from unlawful deportation. This is the story of Mariana Lopez, a longtime and loyal employee of a well-known motel in Ventura, California.
It takes her two hours to clean two rooms there right now, since the conditions have gotten worse after April 24th, when the motel was transformed into a shelter for houseless veterans and the elderly as part of Ventura County’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Despite all of her service for less fortunate members of the community, Mariana was issued a “Bag and Baggage” notice on April 27th out of Los Angeles. The notice didn’t reach her or her lawyer until days later on May 11th and May 12th, wasting precious time to do anything about the decision.
Ventura County housed at least 100 houseless individuals in two motels as ofApril 24thdue to the coronavirus outbreak. Lopez gets assigned rooms every day only to be met with comments like, “Well? Aren’t you gonna clean up my room?” or “I’m gonna tell the office you didn’t clean my room” from clients that didn’t have cleanings scheduled for the day. Rooms with toilets clogged with blood-soaked blankets and other horrible conditions have become commonplace. Yet, Mariana works through it all bit by bit. She describes the work as, “A little hard because they’re old, and they get mad at all kinds of things, but we’re there to help.”
The issue is that Mariana has applied for what’s called Stay of Removal every year since 2011, and every year she’s been approved. Her consistent approval has partially to do with her pending U Visa, which she is qualified for because she and her four children were victims of abuse for years.
The abuser was eventually removed from the family and her four children, three daughters, and one son found stability and peace for the first time in their lives. The family is incredibly close; they enjoy painting their nails together, playing Loteria, and having carne asadas. They also really enjoy singing karaoke together at home.
Deportation would put the family into instability once again. Even though two of Mariana’s daughters, Nadia and Isabella, work and the youngest, Javier, has an internship. They would struggle to make ends meet without the “head of the household,” their mother.
According to her lawyer Vanessa Frank, Mariana expressed that she felt like all of this happened because she tried to follow the rules, she showed up on time with all of the necessary documents, and still had the rug pulled out from underneath her.
Nadia and Isabella are serving their community during the pandemic, like their mother, and work at a preschool that is currently open to serve the children of doctors and police officers. They wear scrubs, masks, and spray down everything constantly, in an effort to keep everyone safe.
“We’re at peace... It’s not just about us, she built a home with us,” said Nadia.
The youngest, Javier, has big plans to attend college and is already considered a volleyball star. He’s currently working his first job and cooks for families in need that go to the Mission in Ventura for free meals. The last meal he made there was teriyaki chicken, chow mein, and grilled vegetables,
“It’s four of us making 20 pounds of food... but it’s worth it in the end,” said Javier.
According to her lawyer Vanessa Frank, Mariana expressed that she felt like all of this happened because she tried to follow the rules, she showed up on time with all of the necessary documents, and still had the rug pulled out from underneath her. It felt very unfair, “She was so determined at a young age. I'm a scaredy-cat, like when I go out to eat I always eat the same food. She moved to a new country on her own.” said Nadia about her mother.
The stakes are high, the notice means that Mariana will have to turn herself into an ICE facility for deportation on June 11th. She would be deported to Mexico, a country she left at 16, over three decades ago.
After being asked how readers can support the Lopez family their Lawyer, Vanessa Frank, said that they can call their local Congressional representative or Senator and ask for an immediate halt to deportations during the pandemic.
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