A man who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in October had much reason to celebrate on Monday. A video of Fernando Carillo's release from ICE shows the joyous emotional response shared between him and his family — and many others who supported Carillo's cause.
Carillo was arrested several months ago after he dropped his 4-year-old daughter off at daycare. In detention ever since, a San Francisco judge agreed to grant Carillo's request for a withholding of removal order, after the father of three made the case that his deportation back to Mexico would put him in real danger. According to Tatiana Sanchez at The Mercury News, Carillo's brother works in law enforcement in Mexico, and some of his arrests would make Carillo a potential target for certain criminal elements. Carillo's lawyer, Hedi Framm-Anton, would not reveal further details.
A crowd was waiting for Carillo outside the court building in San Francisco, and they burst out into cheers and applause when he exited the doors as a free man. He was embraced by his wife, Lourdes Barraza, and he later picked up his youngest daughter. The family can be heard crying and also laughing in the video, and sometimes it seems both are happening simultaneously.
In a text message to Sanchez sent Friday, Barraza wrote, "This is definitely the best news we have received in six months. We are beyond ourselves at this point!"
Carillo has been living illegally in the United States for the past 15 years, though Barraza and all three of his daughters are American citizens. With the judge's order, Carillo will be free to live in the United States for the rest of his life, with no legal threat, as long as he is not found guilty of any future crimes. He has been convicted of drunk driving in the past, and also has prior deportation orders on his legal record.
Barazza had created a "Free Fernando" Facebook page for her husband, where she ensured his release was live-streamed. The page is full of family photos of Carillo with Barazza and his three daughters, as well as regular updates about his case and other media reports on cases similar to his.
According to Sanchez, Carillo's case had "received significant attention over the past several months." Hundreds of community members had showed up to support his cause, attending demonstrations and rallies protesting for Carillo's release.
National tensions around the issue of illegal immigration are high. President Trump ran a campaign that made building a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico a mainstay of his rallies and speeches. After becoming president, he has continued to talk about the wall, even if material action on its actual construction remains mostly elusive.
Additionally, border patrol agents and ICE officials have been lambasted by the media for various cases of immigrant detention that have struck many as unnecessary or even cruel. In the case of the detention of Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, ACLU attorney Michael Tan told Bustle the border patrol's decision to arrest her was "egregious and shameless." He also said the case sent "a very disturbing message about how this administration is enforcing immigration laws.”
The Trump administration has pursued the detention of undocumented immigrants to a much greater degree than the previous administration under President Obama. Arrests increased by 40 percent under Trump, with a huge jump in the targeting of non-criminal immigrants.
It's a policy change that's been felt in many immigrant communities, and that's part of what makes Carillo's release so emotional. With a judge agreeing that his return to Mexico would put him in real danger, Carillo is now free to live in the United States without fear of deportation. It's a situation that many can only dream of.