Jorge Garcia came to the United States at the age of 10 with members of his family almost 30 years ago. While he reportedly met annually with immigration officials and had sought to become a legal resident, Garcia was deported on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The former resident of Lincoln Park, a small city just south of Detroit, learned in November of a deportation order in his name. An extension allowed him to remain until Monday.

His wife of 15 years, Cindy Garcia, and their teenaged children saw him off at Detroit Metro Airport at the departure gate. Michigan United, a progressive advocacy group that sought to delay Garcia’s departure, had members on hand with placards reading “Stop separating families.” But the 39-year-old landscaper boarded his plane to Mexico City nonetheless.

In 2016, immigration authorities warned Garcia that his “time was up” in the U.S. and told him to prepare for deportation. Garcia is too old to qualify for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as minors to work and reside in the U.S. under a two-year deferment from deportation. Garcia had not criminal history.

In a statement, Michigan United officials declared, “Rather than wait to see what reforms are made, immigration officials came into work on a national holiday to take Jorge away from his family.” Garcia was told that he will not be able to return to the U.S. for at least 10 years. According to Michigan United, “Cindy [Garcia] thanked every who got up before dawn to give much needed support, friends, activists and her union brothers and sisters. ‘I don’t see the justice in this.’ said AJ Freer of UAW 600. ‘For a man who cares deeply and supports his family, obeys the law, pays taxes and has a history of helping others, I think ICE and the Federal Government of the United States acted cruelly to this family.’ Bruised but unbowed, Freer vowed ‘Now we fight to get him back.’”

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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