Ripped apart by deportation of dad, the Garcia family struggles to cope

Without Jorge Garcia, her husband and the father of her two children, home doesn't feel the same for Cindy Garcia. 

"It's empty," Garcia of Lincoln Park said Friday while sitting at the kitchen dining table of her mother's home. 

"The house is completely empty. We walk in, and it's not the same. We're always looking at the door, waiting for him to come through from work, and he's not going to come through. 

"It's even affected my dog," said Garcia, a medically retired Dearborn truck plant worker. "My dog looks at us, and he's just laying by my feet like he knows something's missing, but he can't figure it out."


Jorge Garcia, 39, was deported to Mexico from Detroit on MLK day separating he and his family. Garcia get's a chance to chat via a video chat app with his family just days after his deportation.Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

Jorge Garcia was deported to Mexico on Monday, after living in the U.S. for 30 years. Brought to the U.S. by undocumented family members at the age of 10, Jorge Garcia has lived his entire adult life in the U.S.

His story garnered national attention after the Free Press first chronicled the emotional separation of the family just after 6 a.m. on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day in Detroit Metro Airport.

In the days since, the Garcias have been swamped with media and appearance requests. They've appeared on or spoken to a wide range of outlets around the world, including CNN, Univision, "The View" and The Washington Post. 

On Sunday, Cindy Garcia, 45, is set to be among the speakers at the Women's March Power to the Polls event in Lansing. She has also been invited to attend the State of the State address Tuesday in Lansing, and the State of the Union address Jan. 30 in Washington, D.C.

"We're just overwhelmed right now," said Garcia, as her two children prepared Ramen noodles for a late afternoon snack. "The phone's been ringing since 6 a.m. this morning. ... We do it to keep the story alive."

When she goes to bed exhausted, Garcia can't stop thinking about her husband. 

"I sleep with two of his shirts because they still have his smell," she said. "I put them on me, like just lay them on me because they still have his smell of his cologne and stuff. ... It gives me comfort to where my anxiety doesn't flare up as bad."

For years, the Garcias have tried to gain permanent legal status for Jorge. He is only one year too old to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows children of undocumented immigrants to stay legally in the U.S. 

Now, Garcia sees it as her mission to speak up for others in her situation as the immigration debate heats up in Congress and the White House.

"I believe that we have to continue to fight, step up to the plate, " Garcia said. "The fight is not over. It's just beginning. I need all the help we can get. I am one person, but we need the Dreamers (DACA recipients) to have a way to pass the citizenship. Even though it doesn't affect my husband anymore, I'm still here to represent the Latinos, because I feel that they don't have a voice, and I do, because I am a U.S. citizen."

The story of Jorge Garcia has become a flashpoint in the contentious debate over immigration, with many President Donald Trump supporters cheering his deportation and seeking to punch holes in Jorge's story with fake allegations.

Cindy Garcia said she has received, and seen, inaccurate comments about her husband, including some falsely alleging that he has a criminal record. Documents from a federal court case with a "Jorge Garcia" who had a drug conviction were circulated online by some conservatives, but the attorney handling that case confirmed to the Free Press that it was a different person. 

Another false assertion that the Garcias said they have confronted is that they never tried to gain legal residency for Jorge. The family said have spent $125,000 in legal fees over 15 years and tried to work with immigration officials to stay. In the past, Garcia, a landscaper, was allowed to stay despite a judge ordering his removal. But that ended in November, when he was told by ICE he had to leave. 

Cindy Garcia worries about the effects that fake stories about their dad could have on her children, Jorge Jr. 12, and Soleil, 15. 

But at the same time, she said she has received "so much good support out there."

"It's overwhelming that people want to stand with us side by side," she said. "It ended up being a blessing that (Jorge's deportation) happened on Dr. Martin Luther King Day because now  we should march side by side connected the way they were, saying, 'we shall overcome.' That was his dream. We're still trying to achieve his dream so many years later: equality for all.

"I have to stand up for the Latino community," said Cindy Garcia, who was born and raised in Detroit. "I have to stand up for everybody. And they cannot threaten me by sending me back to a country.

"If they're going to send me anywhere, it's going to be southwest Detroit."


Cindy Garcia talks about what life is like for her family after her husband Jorge Garcia was recently deported from Detroit to Mexico.

The Garcias have gotten support this week from elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, which issued a statement calling Jorge Garcia's deportation "heartbreaking" and "tragic." Evans said: "Immigration has always served as one of the defining elements of American success. ... This is a look-in-the-mirror for our nation. I hope our federal leadership rights this tragic wrong and allows Jorge to return to his family."

Cindy Garcia said U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., called to express his concern and offer his support.

And a wide range of commentators — both conservative and liberal — also voiced outrage. Conservative writer Bill Kristol wrote about Garcia's deportation: "Surely this should not be happening."

On Friday, Jorge called Cindy and spoke with his family through a video app. The kids smiled as they saw their father's face through the smartphone. 

"How is the weather?" Cindy Garcia asked Jorge, who's staying in the Mexico City area. 

"It's all right, but it's kind of cold," he replied. "But it's not as cold as it is here though."

Jorge joked with his son, who was slurping noodles as they chatted. They laughed together and shared details about their new lives apart. 

Speaking earlier to the Free Press, Jorge Garcia said that while phone conversations are good, it doesn't mean the same thing as being with his family in person. 

"I can talk to them," he said, "but it's not the same."

When Jorge Garcia walked toward the departure gates Monday morning, accompanied by two ICE agents, he said: "I just started thinking about my kids and how long it's going to take to get back."

Garcia said ICE agents gave him a document that he said stated that he couldn't return to the U.S. for at least 10 years. For now, the family is working with an attorney to file petitions to possibly get him returned. But that could take a while, and nothing is promised. 

"It takes 18 months just to get a date with the consulate" in Mexico, said Cindy Garcia. 

Born in the U.S. to an immigrant father from Mexico, Cindy Garcia is part of Lincoln Park's growing Latino population, who now make up 18% of the city.

On the walls around the table at her mom's home are a calendar from the UAW  and drawings of Christian crosses, along with a tall picture of Jesus. As a Catholic and a UAW member, she draws on strength from both.

"God has always been in our lives, and he's giving me the strength right now to continue," Garcia said. "I can lock myself up in my room, sit and cry with a bowl of ice cream, and waste my life away. But I don't gain anything from that, and neither do the people that need my help."

On Sunday, when Cindy Garcia speaks at the Women's March in Lansing, she hopes to send a message to the U.S. about her husband and the plight of immigrants and Latinos.

If she could speak to Trump, Garcia said she would say:

"I want you to realize that what you said is one thing, and what you've done is another," Garcia said. "Because you said you were going to deport the criminals back to their original country: the rapists, the people who bring drugs into the country, and obviously my husband has always done the right thing.

"... How can you send someone back who's not a criminal?" she said. "I want an answer."

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WZZM 13 app now.

 Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment