In a move that elicited criticism and outcry on social media, United States' Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents reportedly deported Jorge Garcia, an undocumented immigrant. The decision not only affected Garcia but also his heartbroken family, including his wife and two kids.
The incident written by reporter Niraj Warikoo was first reported in Detroit Free Press on Monday, which was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as it detailed Garcia's background. According to the report, Garcia had been living in the United States for the past three decades after arriving in the country as a child. At his current age, 39, Garcia is too old to apply for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As he teared up while speaking of his own experience, Garcia said:
I feel kind of sad. 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.
Warikoo also shared images of Garcia among his visibly stressed and emotional family members. The father of two could be seen quietly embracing his distressed loved ones in a group hug. Warikoo tweeted the image on Monday and said, "After years living in the U.S. for 30 years, a 39-year-old immigrant in metro Detroit was deported this morning to Mexico. Escorted by ICE agents, he said bye to wife and [two] kids before boarding. He was brought to U.S. from Mexico when he was 10-years-old, too old to qualify for DACA."
According to the report, Garcia's own family members are legal citizens of the United States. The report said that Garcia came to the United States when he was only 10 and had been in the country since then. During his adult years in Michigan, he became a landscaper and had a clean criminal record. Warikoo wrote that Garcia had been on the legal radar since 2009 as immigrant courts under Barack Obama's administration had already demanded that he be sent back to Mexico. On Monday, Garcia became the latest target under Donald Trump administration's increased operations against undocumented people.
Garcia told the publication that he did ask the ICE agents if he could stay in the country until the government passed the new DACA legislation. Under that possible piece of legislation, the age range for DACA applicants can be stretched beyond its present requirements. Currently, however, the program only allows undocumented people under the age of 16. Ultimately, Garcia said that his plea went unheard and that he was told to leave the country on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Activists and advocates of fair immigration policy and leniency for undocumented men and women noted the timing of Garcia's forced departure. One of the activists, Erik Shelley of immigration advocacy organization Michigan United, said, "How do you do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? It's another example of the tone-deafness of this administration ... If Jorge isn't safe, no one is safe."
On social media, observers called the ICE order insensitive and outrageous. One Twitter user said, "The deportation of Jorgé Garcia is heartbreaking. And it reminds me of the folks in my community who are waiting to see if they or their family meet the same fate. We’re constantly praying for family of church members not to be deported. It’s terrible."
Another user commented on support for the ICE report and said, "The number of people who can’t show an ounce of empathy at
#JorgeGarcia being deported, and separated from his wife and two kids because he came to the U.S. illegally when he was 10, worries me more than the actual deportation. When did we as people become this insensitive?"