BROOMFIELD, Colo. — An immigration activist and undocumented mother living in Broomfield is back home with her four children after she was arrested at a border patrol checkpoint in El Paso, Texas.
Hilda Martinez Murillo faces two charges for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, according to court documents. The charges are serious, but her attorney said they’re commonly filed against immigrants arrested in border town communities.
“She gave people a ride without asking if they had papers, without regard to their status,” American Friends Service Committee of Colorado Lawyer Shana Velez said.
When asked about the people in the vehicle and what relation they have to Murillo, Valez declined to comment or elaborate out of fear of hurting her client's case.
Murillo arrived home Sunday around 3 a.m. after she was arrested on Jan. 29 by border patrol agents. She said she had driven in that area before, but this time there was a temporary immigration checkpoint. Murillo was scared and nervous when officers arrested her and claims they didn’t explain the charges until much later.
The mother said all she could think of was her four children and if she would ever see them again. In 2020, her husband was deported, and she became the breadwinner.
The timeline of Murillo’s arrest
On Jan. 29, Murillo was arrested at a temporary Border Patrol checkpoint in El Paso, Texas while visiting family. That same day, she was taken to Doña Ana County Detention Center in New Mexico on two charges for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, according to court documents.
The affidavit names a man from El Salvador and another from Guatemala.
On Feb. 4, a federal judge approved Murillo’s release. For more than 24 hours after the announcement, organizations helping navigate Murillo's case said they didn’t know where she was and could not get answers from officials.
They later learned she was picked up by Border Patrol agents and taken to another facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico to be processed.
On Feb. 5, she was taken to the hospital by an officer because Murillo said she was having chest pains and trouble breathing. She was later released.
By Feb. 7, she returned home.
Murillo returns home
Murillo said her children were excited to see her and her youngest daughter told her, “no te vuelvas a ir” (don’t ever leave again).
Jenn Piper, American Friends Service Committee organizing director, said Murillo was spared by ICE agents due to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.
Murillo came to the U.S. in 2012 seeking asylum, the undocumented mother is known in her community for her advocacy and push for immigration reform.
Now, new worries and the memories of her time in jail keep her up at night. She said it was traumatic.
Murillo remembers seeking a corner in a 15-by-15 foot holding cell with several other people. They were given cloth masks, but she claims officers didn’t enforce mask use and the jail was dirty. For five days, she tried not to use the bathroom or eat out of fear of COVID-19 and others in jail.
Murillo spoke with her children from jail and recalls trying to hold back tears while on the phone to not scare them. She said only her oldest son knew about her arrest, she told the youngest she was off working.
As she looks back, she said she understands the situation looks bad, but insisted she didn’t do anything wrong to harm anyone or break the law.
Tough decisions lie ahead, but Murillo sid exposing her children to the dangers back home in Mexico is not an option.
A GofundMe has been set up to help cover legal expenses for Murillo.