KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TNS) — Months after a Wichita man was arrested in his driveway by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, the family is sharing the harrowing details of what they say happened that day.
Janeth Lazos, 29, said in a recent conference call with The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City law firm representing her husband that twin fetuses about three months old had died sometime on or before the morning of May 1. She discovered the miscarriage that day around 10 a.m., she claimed in a sworn affidavit.
"She was yellow in the face," husband Jose Gutierrez said in a separate phone interview.
About four hours later on May 1, Gutierrez was alone in the driveway fixing his pickup truck to take Lazos to see a doctor, the couple said. That's when two ICE officers approached him, without prior warning, and said he was under arrest for having illegally crossed into the United States from Mexico in 1998 after already being deported a few months earlier, a felony-level violation.
In a statement on Dec. 20, ICE said officers never encountered the wife of the man they arrested, nor did he mention an emergency at the time of his arrest.
However, according to Lazos, she stepped out of the house and told the officers of her condition. One of them, seemingly sympathetic, touched her shoulder and said, "you need to call 911," the couple told The Star.
ICE's statement tells a different story: "ICE records indicate that at the time of his arrest, (Gutierrez) was alone in his driveway near his vehicle. At the time he made no statements to officers during the encounter or mentioned any emergency for himself or any family member."
Upon reading the statement Friday, Gutierrez's lawyer Rekha Sharma-Crawford said, "I don't think it's factually accurate, and they have a motivation not to be accurate." Sharma-Crawford represents Gutierrez in his efforts to undo his deportation.
Gutierrez told The Star that he implored the officers to allow him to accompany his wife to a hospital, and they refused.
Gutierrez's family was recently featured in an article in The Star about children missing their deported parents during the holidays. Gutierrez was deported to Mexico by June.
Two days before ICE issued its statement, an agency spokesman said he had contacted the arresting officers and that they did not recall encountering anyone in the driveway but Gutierrez. They did remember that he remarked about a family loss on his way to detention but did so without urgency, "as if it happened a couple of days or weeks ago," the spokesman said.
Gutierrez was permitted to call his wife while being processed, ICE said.
Sharma-Crawford's office submitted a sworn affidavit from Lazos to immigration court, recounting the alleged exchange with officers. Under administrative rules of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, such records are not immediately available for inspection. Gutierrez declined the Star's request for copies of them, as did the law firm, citing company policy in its relationship with clients.
Sharma-Crawford said Lazos' account of the arrest has been consistent since her first contact with the firm several months ago.
Lazos had an earlier miscarriage in addition to giving birth to two healthy children. After the May 1 event, she stayed home, experienced some bleeding but suffered no lasting physical effects, she said. Her husband, meanwhile, was locked up until his deportation.
Lazos has a green card. Gutierrez had been living in the country despite an immigration judge issuing a final order of removal two decades ago, ICE said.
He came legally with a temporary visitor's visa nearly 25 years ago but a work-site raid three years later sent him back to Mexico. He unlawfully used the same visitor's visa to re-enter the U.S. in 1998.
The agency's statement indicated he had three prior misdemeanors in Kansas, including a conviction for driving while intoxicated.