DENVER — The future of four children between ages 5 and 14 living in Broomfield is in limbo after their mother, an immigrant rights activist, was arrested at a border patrol checkpoint in El Paso, Texas, a year after their father was deported.
Hilda Martinez Murillo was arrested on January 29, 2021, on charges of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, according to court documents. Friends of Murillo say she was visiting family in Texas when she was stopped at a temporary border checkpoint. She was transported to a detention facility in Doña Ana County in New Mexico.
Murillo’s federally appointed attorney says the charges are serious. Yet, Murillo’s immigration attorney, Shana Valez, is not surprised. She says these charges are common for immigrants.
“Someone can be charged with illegally transporting undocumented immigrants if they merely have people who are undocumented in their vehicle,” Valez said. “Anybody who gave someone (undocumented) a ride from Point A to Point B could be charged with this particular crime.”
Murillo is a mother of four children and known as a champion of immigration rights in her circle in Colorado. She has a series of ties to immigration advocacy groups.
Gabriela Flora, with the American Friends Service Committee, describes Murillo as a woman who is outspoken and fearless in the face of injustice.
“Hilda has testified in favor of bills at the state Capitol and met with many Colorado Congresspeople to advocate for just and humane immigration reform and the elimination of immigration detentions,” Flora said.
Murillo came to the United States in 2012 seeking asylum at the border. Valdez, her immigration attorney, says she is in the removal process, but her next hearing isn’t until 2022, which allows her to stay in the U.S. in the meantime. In 2020, Murillo’s husband was deported and she became the sole provider for her family.
“Hardworking, a devoted mother and an incredible role model for our community,” ACLU Immigration Campaign Coordinator Ana Temu Otting said of Murillo in a Zoom press conference.
Immigration advocates spoke with Murillo on the phone during a Zoom conference Monday. Murillo said she was having a tough time and feeling alone. She said she wouldn’t wish her situation on anyone.
Murillo was released by a federal judge on Thursday, but her appointed attorney said there were reports that she would be arrested by ICE agents during her release.
Valdez said as of 7 p.m. Thursday that Murillo was not showing up on the ICE arrest log. She said they are already preparing to request she be released in order to be reunited with her children, who are currently staying with Murillo’s sister.