On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raided TentLogix – a tent rental company based in Fort Pierce, Florida – and detained 28 undocumented immigrants. DHS arrested Juan Gaspar-García and his brother, but Juan’s brother was released because he has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows young undocumented immigrants to work in the United States. Juan, who immigrated from Guatemala to the US at 14, didn’t apply to the program, and because he has Down syndrome, his family is now putting pressure on Sen. Marco Rubio to protect him from deportation.
His younger sister, Dolores Gaspar-García, began a petition on ¡Somos Presente! to draw attention to his case. “There is nothing wrong with fighting for your dreams, and it is not a crime people should be held for,” she writes. “We are a family of four. Juan is the oldest, but for us he has always been the youngest, because of his mental developmental delays. My brother is unable to understand situations without proper explanation because of his mental developmental delays…. In our home country of Guatemala, there’s nobody who can take care of him. I know that without his family, it will be very difficult for him to be safe and cared for. We are always there for each other. Juan does not have to go through this. I’m sure that he needs me at this moment. I cannot imagine how scared he is right now, and he has no idea of what is happening to him right now. He deserves the right to be with his family and to feel safe again.”
Juan graduated high school in 2007 from South Fork High School. Their mother died in 2004, and Dolores says her brother considers her a maternal figure. Rubio’s office told the Miami Herald that it will reach out to the family and offer assistance. But currently, it isn’t clear if Juan will face deportation.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stated that his “immigration proceedings are ongoing.” And though detention centers need to follow a certain protocol when dealing with people with disabilities or special needs, it’s not clear if the facility has employed them in Juan’s case. Dolores, who spoke to him on the phone the night of his detention, said immigration officials took him to a clinic. Being detained means he’s in a high-stress situation and that he’ll need extra attention. “When he gets nervous or has strong emotions, we have to check his blood,” Dolores said.
So far, the petition she started has 500 signatures so far. Sign it here.