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Activists Protest Imprisonment, Potential Deportation Of Undocumented Grandmother

LOS ANGELES ( — Immigration activists gathered in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday to protest the imprisonment and potential deportation of an undocumented Los Angeles grandmother who has been held for months on what they claim are untrue accusations of gang involvement.

Xochitl Hernandez was arrested February 24 in an LAPD-ICE raid in East Hollywood. She has been held since then at the Adelantado Detention Center, a private prison facility in San Bernardino County. Hernandez, 40, has lived in the US for 30 years and has five children and four grandchildren who are all US citizens.

She was detained after an LAPD officer at the scene of the arrest told an ICE agent, "I've seen her hang out with gang members before,"  KCAL9's Dave Lopez reported.

Hernandez's family vigorously denies that she has been involved in gang activity, saying Hernandez has only a decade-old shoplifting misdemeanor on her record.

The case has galvanized supporters such as Ana Muñiz, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at UC Irvine, to Hernandez's cause.

"This is an illustrative case of how gang profiling criminalizes people based on where they live and who they know rather than what they do," Muñiz said in a statement. "Both ICE and LAPD should recognize Xochitl's detention as reprehensible, but neither has acted to compel her release."

The allegation of gang involvement has prioritized Hernandez for deportation under a 2014 Department of Homeland Security memorandum targeting non-citizens with gang-related convictions.

Hernandez has been held in lieu of $60,000 bail, which her family says they cannot pay. They sought Tuesday to reduce the bail, but won't know the outcome of their efforts until next week.

Hernandez is also hoping to attain a U visa, a form of immigration relief available for survivors of certain crimes. Hernandez is a domestic abuse survivor, her supporters said Tuesday.

The family has circulated an online petition to raise awareness of Hernandez's imprisonment.

ICE released a statement Tuesday that "based on a comprehensive review of Ms. Hernandez's history, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the case and placed her in removal proceedings."

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