Morrisville, N.C. — Nine-year-old Enid Aguirre talks to her mom about everything, almost every day, but since October, those conversations have been over the telephone.
"I get to talk to her for 20 minutes, which is pretty good," Enid says of each conversation. "We talk about when she comes back."
Her mother, Hortencia Aguirre Verduzco, is in the federal North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville, Ga., where she is facing deportation next month and criminal charges associated with her immigration status.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Verduzco, 52, in August after, they say, they found that her immigration documents were falsified.
Friends say Verduzco came to the United States on a tourist visa in 1992 and later hired an immigration attorney to gain legal permanent resident status, but that the lawyer duped her by submitting false information about her birthplace.
"I just don't think she deserves any of this," says Katie Morgan, a friend and longtime neighbor leading the fight to get Verduzco released. "She's not a criminal."
More than 1,500 people, including Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe and federal Judge Malcolm Jones Howard, have added their names to an online petition that Morgan started asking for Verduzco's release.
Morgan is also reaching out to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. David Price, hoping that public and political pressure will prompt ICE to release Verduzco before she is deported.
A single mother who runs her own cleaning service, friends call Verduzco a woman of "high moral character" who is "the epitome of an ideal immigrant."
They say she was naïve when first moved to the U.S. and paid the attorney a large amount of money for his service. After receiving the immigration documents, she went about her life, got a valid work permit, learned English, obtained her GED, enrolled in community college and went to work in Florida working for a neurologist.
Her friends say she's a hardworking, honest, and kind mother who deserves to stay.
"We've cared about this family for so long, as neighbors, and we were horrified that all this started happening," neighbor Katie Morgan said.
In August, while investigating a crime in which Verduzco's brother was a suspect, ICE agents raided her home looking for evidence and found the immigration papers, which they say were falsified.
She was also charged with a felony of possession of a firearm for a handgun she legally purchased with a gun permit. U.S. law states that it's a felony if an illegal alien possesses a weapon.
Her lawyer, Paul Suhr, who says the man who falsified her papers should be the one in jail, not Verduzco.
"I see her as a victim of a crime, instead of someone who instigated a crime or who committed a crime," he says.
Morgan and Suhr both say that she’d be a legal resident of the U.S. if it weren't for trusting the wrong attorney to do her paperwork.
"She tried, and she was a valuable member of society. She paid her taxes, worked hard and is raising a child who's going to be a valuable member of society," Morgan says.
Meanwhile, daughter Enid stays with an aunt during the week and with neighbors on the weekend.
"Anything that was done was done for the right reasons," Morgan says. "She came here for a better life."
The question now is whether a judge will allow her to live that life in North Carolina.