With two immigration agents hovering nearby, Jorge Garcia pulled his family close for one final hug by security gates at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. His wife and 15-year-old daughter sobbed in his arms. His 12-year-old son stood stoically. Garcia was silent.
Soon after, the 39-year-old landscaper from Lincoln Park, Mich., boarded a plane bound for Mexico, deported to his home country on Monday after three decades of living, working and raising a family in the United States.
Garcia was brought to the country with an undocumented relative when he was 10 years old, according to the Detroit Free Press. He had been facing a removal order from immigration courts since 2009, but his deportation was stayed during the Obama administration as his family looked for ways to get him legal status. Under President Trump, that was no longer an option.
“It’s just a nightmare,” his wife, Cindy Garcia, told the Detroit News, after watching her husband walk through the airport scanners. “You can’t even put it into words how it feels.”
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday morning.
Jorge Garcia’s deportation turned him into the latest public face of what many of President Trump’s critics have called a cruel and excessive crackdown on undocumented immigrants by the administration. Under the Obama administration, people in Garcia’s position were rarely targeted for deportation.
Early last year, Trump issued an executive order expanding deportation priorities and rendering all categories of “removable aliens” subject to enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The president and Department of Homeland Security officials say such measures are necessary to protect the public and national security.
Overall, deportations dropped from 2016 to 2017, but immigrant arrests rose. The fastest growing group of arrests, as of September 2017, was made up of people like Garcia who were facing no criminal charges. ICE arrested more than 28,000 “non-criminal immigration violators” in the first seven months of Trump’s term, a nearly threefold increase over the same period in 2016, as The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff has reported.