On Monday night, the Lara family gathered in their backyard to play basketball and have a barbecue. When they sat around the table to eat, they prayed for a miracle. For months, they fought to stop the deportation of Jesús Manuel Lara López, a father of four who arrived to the United States without documentation 16 years ago, according to The New York Times. Despite the petitions, a community rallying behind Jesús, and his lawyer filing an appeal, Lara wasn’t allowed to stay in the country where he had built a life. On Tuesday, he headed to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to board a Delta plane to Mexico. Univision followed him through one of the most difficult moments in his life, and produced two videos that illustrate the pain our broken immigration system causes.
At the airport, as immigration activists gathered to protest his deportation, the Laras embraced. As tears streamed down the faces of each family member, Jesús said goodbye to his daughter, three sons, and wife – not knowing when he’d get to see them again. The intimate, heartbreaking moment has circulated on the internet. And it’s led many to condemn the immigration system that continues to break up families.
As he boarded the plane, Lara left behind his family. After landing in Tapachula, he took a vehicle two hours until he arrived to where he was born, a place he hadn’t seen in almost two decades. There, other family members welcomed him warmly. He and his mom hugged, almost as if making up for lost time. When he chose to go to the United States, Lara likely knew that never seeing his mother and family again was a possibility. Therefore, being able to see her again came with conflicting feelings.
The same goes for his mother, who tearfully described the reunion as bittersweet. “It hurts me, but thank God, I have my son here again,” she said. “And what that man, Donald Trump, did doesn’t have a name.”
Lara, whose father died when he was an infant, struggled to find work in Chiapas. So in 2001, he crossed the border into the United States so that he could send money back home to his mother and sisters, according to Cleveland.com. He first moved to Florida, but eventually settled in Willard, Ohio, where he met and fell in love with Anahi Salinas. Together, they’re the parents of 14-year-old Eric, 11-year-old Edwin, 10-year-old Anuar, and 6-year-old Elsiy. About a year ago, he purchased a house. He had built a life in the small city. “I was working and raising a family,” Lara told the NYT.
In 2008, as he drove to the dentist, a police officer pulled him over. The state of Ohio doesn’t grant licenses to undocumented immigrants, so Lara ended up jailed. That’s when a sheriff’s deputy contacted Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). By 2011, he received a removal order. But because he had never been in trouble with the law, he was told to attend yearly check ins with ICE.
However, this year, things changed when Trump became president. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump expanded the definition of “criminal alien,” taking it from undocumented immigrants who posed a threat to public or national safety, had ties to criminal gangs, or had committed either a series of minor crimes of felonies to a term that now encompasses a wider range of people. As a result, people like Lara – law-abiding immigrants – have faced deported this year.
Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump expanded the definition of “criminal alien,” taking it from undocumented immigrants who posed a threat to public or national safety, had ties to criminal gangs, or had committed either a series of minor crimes or felonies to a term that now encompasses a wider range of people.
For the next few weeks, Jesús will stay close to his mother as he figures out his next step. According to Univision, his options include moving to Mexico City or to a border city, where he can fight to be reunited with his children and wife. In the meantime, the four Laras will gear up for their own fight. Jesús’ deportation is a blow in countless ways, including financially. The oldest of Jesús’ sons turned to GoFundMe to try to provide some relief to his mother.
“I started this GoFundMe page to make sure that my mom doesn’t struggle now that my dad is gone,” he wrote. “I am only 14, I am not ready to be the man of the house, but I have to help my mom out somehow. My dad will work in Mexico as soon as he can get a job, but the money he makes there won’t be enough to support us all. Please help my family. Your donation will help my mom pay for our house and other bills, and make sure that Edwin, Anuar, Elsiy, and I have the things we need to get ready for going back to school.”
The campaign has already raised $16,000. Visit the GoFundMe campaign here.