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SAN DIEGO — Rocio Rebollar Gomez, the mother of an Army officer, spoke at a news conference Thursday morning before she checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be deported.

Gomez has lived in San Diego for 31 years and is the mother of three children, including U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Gibram Cruz.

The family says because Cruz is an intelligence officer, getting permission to travel outside the U.S. for personal reasons is difficult, and seeing his mother once she is back in Mexico will be challenging.

“I’m here essentially to say goodbye to my mom,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Gomez tried to apply to a special program that protects relatives of U.S. military members while they serve, but the program is discretionary and she was denied in December, according to the U-T. At that point, ICE told her she would have to leave the country in January.

“The immigration laws of the United States allow an alien to pursue relief from removal; however, once they have exhausted all due process and appeals, they remain subject to a final order of removal from an immigration judge and that order must be carried out,” ICE told the U-T when asked about the case.

According to the newspaper, Gomez has no criminal history but she has previously been deported three times.

After coming to the U.S. in the late 80s, Gomez was picked up in an immigration raid at the hotel where she worked in the mid-90s. She was pregnant at the time and already had two children in the U.S. She quickly crossed illegally back into the country.

Gomez was deported two more times in the mid-2000s.

Her family says she is afraid to return to her hometown Acapulco because of the cartel violence that has overtaken the city. Her ties to the U.S., and particularly the military, could make her target for the cartels.

“She would be an easy paycheck for them,” Cruz told the U-T. “How am I supposed to keep her safe?”

After Thursday’s news conference outside the ICE building on Front Street downtown, Gomez hugged family members and supporters, then walked inside to check in with authorities.

Read Kate Morrissey’s full story on Gomez here.