DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit man who had lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years has been deported to Mexico.
Jorge Garcia came to the U.S. with his family when he was 10 years old. He has no criminal record, pays taxes and has long sought legal status, according to his family. The 39-year-old landscaper was deported on Monday and can't return to the U.S. for a decade.
Garcia had faced an order of removal from immigration courts since 2009, but had been granted stays of removal under former President Barack Obama's administration.
Garcia learned in November that he'd been scheduled to be deported as part of an immigration crackdown by President Donald Trump's administration. A request from Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell pushed back the deportation date to allow Garcia to spend the holidays with his wife and two children, who are all U.S. citizens.
"We did not want to put up a Christmas tree because it was way too sad to even get to that point," his wife, Cindy Garcia, said. "It was rough because we knew he was going to leave eventually. All we could do is make memories."
Immigrant advocates say deporting people like Garcia separates families.
"Rather than wait to see what reforms are made, immigration officials came into work on a national holiday to take Jorge away from his family," said Michigan United, a group that advocates for immigrant rights and other issues.
Jorge Garcia is too old to qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought here as children to work and study in the U.S.
"I got to leave my family behind, knowing that they're probably going to have a hard time adjusting," Garcia said. "Me not being there for them for who knows how long. It's just hard."
Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Tuesday that the federal government was justified in deporting Garcia.
"All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," Walls said in a statement.