Soon after Mirna Valenzuela hit the $1,200 jackpot at Casino Del Sol Resort in Tuscon, Arizona on December 2, she was deported to Mexico.
When trying to claim her prize, casino staff asked Valenzuela and her daughter Zamira Osorio to shower their IDs. Federal law requires winners of $1,200 or more to show identification for tax purposes.
Casino authorities doubted the validity of their documentation and called Pascua Yaqui police, who confirmed the IDs were fraudulent. Reports contradict over who, casino agents or tribal police, contacted U.S. Border Patrol, which deported Valenzuela and released Osorio under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DREAM act).
“This is an unfortunate incident; something that happened, happened in the 20 years we’ve been in business,” Wendell Long, CEO of Casino Del Sol Resort, told CBS 12 News.
Casino officials said players do not have to be a U.S. citizen to win. Actually, the casino, located just 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, attracts a lot of their business from the neighboring country. On the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, the tribe doesn’t implement Arizona’s immigration law, officials told CBS 12 News.
“We strongly embrace our Hispanic visitors, as well as all our visitors, and want to make sure that they feel safe and welcome at our properties,” Long told the news station.
"We hate to see anyone suffer any pain or grief," Long told KVOA.com. "We do not care if they are in the country legally or illegally. That's not what we do. We're here to provide great entertainment."
Long added, "If she had shown us her Mexican passport her valid Mexican passport there wouldn't have been any problem at all."
Osorio expressed her anger at the circumstances. “This is really unfair,” she told reporters. “We feel really discriminated [against]; we weren’t doing anything illegal. This is the first time I get arrested in my whole entire life.”
Osorio also said the casino should put up a sign that they don’t want illegal immigrants playing at their casino.
To KVOA.com, she said she was thankful the DREAM act protects her rights to stay and take care of her children and siblings. "That would have been a very bad situation for my children and brothers and sister," she said.
Valenzuela can still claim her winnings with a valid ID—from Mexico, Arizona or elsewhere. A casino spokesperson said they will set aside the money for her indefinitely. But her daughter said it is impossible for her mother to collect her winnings, because she has already been forced out of the country.