Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has pardoned Lilian Cruz Mendez, who is in the country illegally, of a traffic violation in an attempt to prevent the Trump administration from deporting her.Lilian Cruz Mendez is an undocumented immigrant living in the United States illegally. In 2013, she was convicted of driving without a driver's license. Under the Obama administration, this conviction was not significant enough to warrant deportation proceedings. This year, President Trump signed an executive order expanding upon Barack Obama's deportation policy, instructing Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize any illegal immigrant convicted criminals for deportation. When Lilian Cruz Mendez showed up to her scheduled check-in with ICE agents, she was detained because of her previous conviction. After her arrest, Gov. McAuliffe issued a pardon on Wednesday in the hope that removing the prior conviction from her criminal record would be enough to stave off deportation. “If President Trump and his administration are serious about making our nation safer, they will release Ms. Mendez, focus their immigration enforcement efforts on legitimate threats to our public safety and get behind the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs,” the Governor said in a statement.
Defenders of Mendez point out that a traffic-related conviction should not be enough to justify deportation and splitting up a family. Opponents of illegal immigration point to the fact that Mendez put innocent people in danger when she decided to drive without the proper licensing and training. Since Donald Trump took office, immigration arrests have increased by an estimated 38 percent. However, while arrests are up, illegal border crossings are at a 17-year low. This means that the Trump administration has significantly increased interior enforcement of the country's immigration laws. McAuliffe's decision to pardon Lilian Cruz Mendez marks a change in how jurisdictions oppose the Trump administration's immigration enforcement. Just this week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper used his pardon pen in an attempt to stop the Trump administration from deporting an undocumented immigrant. Except, instead of pardoning a traffic violation, Colorado's Governor pardoned a convicted felon sentenced to 98 years in prison for multiple armed robberies. While these pardons are unlikely to actually affect the federal government's deportation proceedings, they do send a stark message that cities and states are unwilling to help President Trump and his deputies enforce immigration law. What do you think? Should Gov. McAuliffe have pardoned Lilian Cruz Mendez to try to stop her deportation?