EL PASO — An undocumented woman who witnessed the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart store and who was cooperating with law enforcement remains in Ciudad Juárez after she was deported last week because of unpaid traffic tickets — just days after a federal judge in Texas halted a deportation moratorium for some undocumented immigrants that President Joe Biden issued his first day in office.
Now her lawyer is appealing to federal immigration officials to let her back in the country.
The woman, identified only as Rosa to protect her identity, would likely still be in the country if Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton hadn't filed the lawsuit to halt Biden's executive order on deportations, said attorney Anna Hey, the deputy director of the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, who is representing Rosa.
Rosa was deported even though she was providing law enforcement with information about the Aug. 3, 2019 mass shooting in which prosecutors say a white supremacist killed 23 people at an El Paso Walmart store after posting an online manifesto saying that he was trying to ward off an "invasion" of Hispanic immigrants.
The alleged gunman, Patrick Crusius, 22, of Allen, has been in jail since the shooting and is charged with dozens of state and federal crimes murder and gun charges that could result in a death sentence.
Rosa, who graduated from Jefferson High School in El Paso, said she was at the Walmart that day and saw the shooter enter the store and begin firing.
"She came forward and presented herself to both El Paso police and FBI officials to give a statement of what she saw on that fateful day," Hey said Friday after Rosa was deported. "The information she has was sufficient for the District Attorney’s office to issue a certification that she has been helpful in the investigation."
The El Paso District Attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment and it's unclear whether prosecutors plan to call Rosa as a witness in the trial.