Jorge Garcia, 39, of Lincoln Park, hugs his wife and two kids before being escorted by ICE agents to be deported to Mexico, on Jan. 15, 2018, at Detroit Metro Airport.
His arms wrapped around his wife and two teenage children, Jorge Garcia’s eyes welled up Monday morning as he looked into their eyes one last time near the entrance to the airport security gate at Detroit Metro Airport.
His wife, Cindy Garcia, cried out while his daughter, Soleil, 15, sobbed into Garcia’s shoulder as they hugged. Two U.S. immigration agents kept a close watch nearby.
After 30 years of living in the U.S, Garcia, a 39-year-old Lincoln Park landscaper, was deported on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday from metro Detroit to Mexico, a move supporters say was another example of immigrants being unfairly targeted under the Trump administration.
Rochelle Riley: Jorge Garcia wasn’t deported; he was sentenced
Jorge Garcia was brought to the U.S. by an undocumented family member when he was 10 years old. Today he has a wife and two children,, all of whom are U.S. citizens. He’s been trying for years to find a path to live legally in the U.S., with he and his wife spending $125,000 in legal costs and fees since 2005, says his wife.
Garcia had been facing an order of removal from immigration courts since 2009, but under the previous administration, he had been given stays of removal. But because of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, Garcia was ordered in November to return to Mexico. His supporters say he has no criminal record — not even a traffic ticket — and pays taxes every year.
Nevertheless, Garcia had to be removed, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On Monday morning, accompanied by ICE agents at Detroit Metro Airport, Garcia went through security as supporters around him held up signs that read, “Stop Separating Families.”
“We love you, Jorge,” said Mayra Valle of Detroit as Garcia hugged his wife and children. “They’re a good family, they’re hardworking. … This is so sad. This is outrageous. We never expected this would happen.”
Garcia’s case is the latest example of immigrants who previously would have been allowed to remain in the U.S., but not now as the U.S. seeks to remove more immigrants. Garcia is too old to qualify for DACA, which allows the children of undocumented immigrants to legally work and study in the U.S.
Garcia said he had asked ICE if they could wait until new DACA legislation is passed, which might expand the age range for immigrants to qualify. But, he said, they refused and said he had to leave by Jan. 15.
“How do you do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?” said Erik Shelley, a leader with Michigan United, which advocates for immigrant rights and other issues. “It’s another example of the tone-deafness of this administration. … If Jorge isn’t safe, no one is safe.”
Shelley said he’s concerned that minority immigrants are increasingly being targeted, citing remarks Trump has made about African and Hispanic immigrants.
Shelley was joined at the airport by other immigrant advocates and an official with the UAW, which has been supportive of Garcia.
A spokesman for ICE told the Free Press on Monday that he could not immediately comment since it was a federal holiday, and their offices are closed.
“I feel kind of sad,” Garcia told the Free Press on Sunday night, his hands interlocked, pressed against his forehead in worry. “I got to leave my family behind, knowing that they’re probably going to have a hard time adjusting. Me not being there for them for who knows how long. It’s just hard.”
Especially painful will be being separated from his children, Soleil and Jorge Garcia Jr., 12. The Garcias said their 12-year-old son has been taking the news hard, not expressing himself, which is concerning his parents.
“I’m going to be sad because I’m not going to be able to be with them,” Garcia said at the table of a friend’s home in southwest Detroit during a farewell party for him. “… It’s going to be kind of hard for me to adjust, too. Not being there with them, helping the kids with school stuff. It’s going to be kind of hard. But it’s something, I guess I got to find a way to adjust.”
Garcia may be barred from entering the U.S. for at least 10 years, said Cindy Garcia. Diego Bonesatti, legal services director for Michigan United, and others have been fighting for Garcia for years and now will try to get him back.
Garcia’s wife is a U.S. citizen, but being married to a U.S. citizen does not automatically qualify immigrants for legal residency.
Immigrant advocates say deporting people like Garcia is ripping up families and communities in Detroit and other areas such as Lincoln Park, which are struggling with population losses. Immigrants like Garcia are an asset that stabilize and grow metro Detroit, they said.
“It’s like plucking a main artery, like, their lifeline, taking it from them and then just putting it somewhere else,” said Norma Garza Jones, 44, of Detroit, a family friend. “Those that are left behind are left to just try and compensate for that artery that main blood vessel, you know, that’s been pulled from them.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” Bonesatti said. “If you’re going to pick someone who’s ideal,” he would be it.
“He came at age 10 … he’s never been in trouble, period. He’s never even gotten a traffic ticket.”
Moreover, Mexico is a foreign place to Garcia.
“This is his home,” Bonesatti said. “This is the place he knows.”
“It’s just a shame on this national (MLK) holiday when we’re supposed to be celebrating diversity, the end of discrimination, the fight for civil rights, our nation is still targeting vulnerable families,” said Adonis Flores, an immigrant rights leader at Michigan United.
Cindy Garcia, a retired Dearborn truck plant worker, worries about supporting her family without her husband.
She said that when her husband reported to ICE in November as part of a regular check-in, he was informed that he had to leave the U.S. and would be detained immediately.
Garcia said ICE agents told them: “We’re going to detain him and he’s not going home.”
His deportation date was set for the day after Thanksgiving.
But after a request by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Garcia said, ICE later agreed to extend his deportation date until Jan. 15, allowing him to spend the holidays one last time with his family.
The family was too depressed to have a Christmas tree. It didn’t seem to fit in with their anxious mood, Garcia said.
“It’s a nightmare, coming to life,” she said. ” … You have no choice but to face it head-on, and accept what is being thrown at you. Because there is nothing else that you can do.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo
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