When Belsy García Manrique walks the stage in 2019 to receive her med school diploma, her father may not be sitting in the audience. Her dad, Felix García, is an undocumented immigrant currently fighting to stay in the country from the Stewart Detention Center. For years, Guatemala-born Felix – who has no criminal record – checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But during his January appointment, ICE arrested him – an occurrence that has increased under Donald Trump’s presidency. Now, as Felix, 51, faces deportation on April 4, he and his family are fighting for his freedom – at least until at least May 2019 when his daughter will graduate from Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine.
When immigration officers arrested García, he asked the agency to let him remain in the country until next year. He said he’d buy his own ticket back to Guatemala, a country he hasn’t seen in 23 years. His request was denied. So with his deportation set to happen next month, his daughters are taking action, according to the Huffington Post. They have started a petition to pressure Sean Gallagher – the director of ICE’s Atlanta Field Office – to suspend Felix’s deportation. “Mr. García is a longtime resident of Georgia and the father of three daughters,” the letter reads. “Not only has Mr. Garcia contributed to his community as an accountant for more than twenty years he is also raising children who will have a positive impact on our country for years to come.” Belsy, for example, hopes to return to Georgia to use her skills in underserved communities.
Felix arrived in the US in 1995 seeking asylum. He faced a judge without a lawyer or interpreter; therefore, he couldn’t properly make his case. The judge ordered him deported, which is now making the father of three an easy target for the Trump Administration. Charles Roth, director of litigation of the National Immigrant Justice Center, told Huffington Post that ICE is now detaining people at check-ins to “rack up numbers of deportations without needing to go back into the immigration court system.”