I-Team Report: Deportation Drama - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report: Deportation Drama

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MICHIGAN, (WNEM) -

Cindy Garcia thought she was living the American dream. But that all changed when her husband, Jorge, got picked up by immigration.

“It is very devastating. It’s a nightmare to live with, knowing that you will be separated," she said.

Jorge was born in Mexico and brought to the United States illegally when he was just 10-years-old.

He’s been here for 28 years. During that time he’s found a career, met the love of his life and is raising three children in metro Detroit.

But he never achieved legal status.

Now the country he’s always called home has, by law, forced him to leave.

Garcia first opened up to the TV5 I-Team about her husband’s plight back in December.

“We were told by the ICE agents that he has to return," she said.

At that time, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had given Jorge a month at home with his family to tie up loose ends before boarding a one-way flight back to Mexico.

And that painful day came for the Garcia family on Jan. 15.

Cindy and her kids said goodbye to a man who held their family together, not knowing when they will see him again.

If it seems like you’ve been seeing things like this more and more, that’s because it’s happening more and more.

As the I-Team discovered, the Garcia family is just one of thousands fighting to stay together.

According to ICE’s website, in 2017 alone ICE made a total of 143,470 arrests nationwide. That’s the highest amount in the last three years, resulting in a total of 226,119 deportations.

Jorge has been back in Mexico for about three weeks now, but his family is trying to get him back to the U.S. legally.

“We did a fundraiser so we can try to get him returned back to the U.S. properly, with the right documentation and the right applications we would need," Cindy said.

But becoming a legalized citizen is a process that could take anywhere from a few months to several years. 

“According to our lawyer it would take 18-months just to get an appointment. That’s not even letting us know if they’re going to let him return or not. From what I’ve seen from my other friend, it can take up to 18 years. Then it’s up to the council in Mexico to decide whether they want to say yes or deny you," Cindy said.

Which leaves little comfort for this family.

Cindy said she understands the law and why it’s in place, but she thinks there should be exceptions made for people like her husband. 

“Yes, our borders need to be protected. But at the same time, I believe each individual case needs to be looked at as a separate case and not categorize everyone into one system. The only crime they say he’s committed is coming into the U.S. at 10-years-old," Cindy said.

So, the big question is, why now? What’s changed?

“The ICE officer told us that while Obama was in office he was OK because of laws that were in place. But because [President] Trump did take office and Trump has stated that if you need to be gone he’s going to send you back to whatever country you belong to,” Cindy said.

During our I-Team Investigation, TV5 learned the Obama administration had three key criteria for someone to be deported. They had to be an undocumented immigrant who committed a serious crime, someone who returned to the U.S. after being deported, or someone who was deemed a “national security threat”.

The administration said they were committed to not deporting all other undocumented immigrants living in the United States, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Now, under the Trump administration, many like David Sanchez with Michigan United, claim if you’re undocumented, you’re not welcome in America.

“ICE used to target people who had criminal records. They used to do more community safety things, and now it just seems like they’re targeting anyone they can get,” Sanchez said.

“One person can change your life in an instant, and he doesn’t realize what he’s doing. Not so much to me, but to my children. The children are the ones who suffer in all of this,” Cindy said.

The I-Team did reach out to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Detroit who handles all local cases directly.

They refused to speak with us on camera or answer any of our questions.

But we do know the agency is doing their job, based on the law.

As the immigration debate continues with Americans lining up on opposite sides, Cindy said she and her family are stuck in the middle; forced to play the hand dealt by those in power.

“It’s something you don’t ever want to fear because at any given moment that knock will come to your door. And you at that moment will have to realize do I open the door? Do I answer the door? What do I do? What will I say? And unless you know the right steps to take, ICE will overpower you," Cindy said.

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