As Jorge Garcia drove this week through the busy streets of Mexico City and up the winding road to his family home, he did not recognize the place he was born 39 years ago.
When Garcia was 10, his aunt brought him — without documentation — to the United States, where he grew up, married an American and raised kids — a daughter, now 15, and a son, 12 — in the Midwest, he said.
Then, on Monday, he got deported.
Garcia’s wife, Cindy, and their two children — all US citizens — remain in Michigan, while Garcia lives in limbo in Mexico. He plans to petition to be let back in the United States, he said. For now, he’ll stay with his aunt, whom he had not seen in nearly three decades.
Garcia knew this day could come. After an immigration judge first ordered him to leave the country in 2006, Garcia won at least four reprieves — and was never detained, US Immigration the Customs Enforcement spokesman Khaalid Walls told CNN via email.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind that something like this was going to happen, but I didn’t think it would happen this soon,” said Garcia, who’s too old to seek protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. “I thought I still had a little bit of time.”
Garcia “was removed pursuant to the judge’s removal order” on Monday, Walls wrote, without explaining why this time was different.
“As ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” Walls added. “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.”
Now, in Mexico, Garcia looked around at his new home.
“It (is) something different from what I remember as a kid to now,” he told CNN. “And everything has changed, and basically from Detroit to here is … a total change.”
‘This is going to be hard’
Garcia may be able to return to his family in two years, he said, citing his attorney, though the slip of paper handed to him by ICE stipulates a 10-year ban.
Just one day into his separation from his family, he called the situation “heartbreaking.”
“Michigan is home,” he said. “My family is there, my whole life is over there, even though I was born here.”
Garcia’s children won’t talk about what’s happening, he said. His daughter “just started crying and got really upset. Basically, that’s all she was doing. She didn’t even say anything. She was just crying.”
His son didn’t want to talk either.
To keep his mind off his legal battle to return to the United States, Garcia plans to look for a job. He has experience in landscaping but will take whatever he can get, he said.
On the bright side, Garcia gets to spent time with his aunt and reconnect with his cousins, he said. And his relatives have opened their home to him as long as he needs it.
But what he really wants is to go home to Michigan, support his family, play board games and watch movies with his family, he said.
“I just hope this goes fast,” he said of the separation. “This is going to be hard.”