Fighting breast cancer has been difficult for Ruth Alvarez and her family. But now, she is battling the disease from inside a jail cell and without her loved ones by her side.
Alvarez, an undocumented woman from Mexico, has been detained in the Estrella Jail in Phoenix ever since Department of Public Safety officers came to her home on April 1 and arrested her on felony charges for allegedly working with false documents. She is scheduled for a mastectomy on April 23 and is asking to be released so she can have her family next to her when she undergoes the surgery.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a safe place where I can really fight for my health and my freedom,” she told Univision’s Phoenix affiliate.
Alvarez’s attorney, Jose Peñalosa, told VOXXI that Phoenix Police officers first arrested the mother of two in September 2013 for allegedly working with false documents. She was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was released when her case was “scratched,” meaning the prosecution at that time did not have enough evidence to hold her over to establish probable cause to bring criminal charges against her.
Now, Alvarez is facing the same charges from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Peñalosa is asking Montgomery to release Alvarez for humanitarian reasons given she is battling Stage 3 breast cancer. He also noted that under Arizona law, a prosecutor has seven years after the alleged crime was committed to prosecute a person.
“I’ve told him, ‘Look, you got seven years to prosecute her. What’s the rush?’” Peñalosa said, referring to Montgomery. “I’ve asked him to let her go. Let her get better, and then come back to the case in a year or two. But he won’t budge.”
Peñalosa is also proposing that Montgomery amend the charges to a Class 6 felony, which is the lowest ranking felony offense and would make Alvarez eligible for a bond.
A spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told VOXXI in an email they will not comment on Alvarez’s case because it is pending. He added that “prosecutors do not have authority to release defendants or hold them in custody – judges do.”
Alvarez insisted she is willing to face the charges brought against, but she would like to be released to undergo the surgery and battle breast cancer first.
“If they want to come back and get me that’s fine. I just want to be out with my family for those days,” she told FOX 10 News.
Indira Alvarado, Alvarez’s 18-year-old daughter, said being away from her mother as she battles breast cancer has been “probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with.” She said it’s been especially difficult on her 4-year-old brother who constantly asks for his mother.
“I think that my mom’s diagnosis has been hard on all of us,” Alvarado told VOXXI. “We feel that if she was to face surgery alone, it could take an emotional toll on her and this could potentially have negative effects on her physical health.”
Alvarado is a senior at North High School in Phoenix and is set to graduate next month. She said the thought of not having her mother there to see her graduate “is horrifying.”