A Legal Resident, an Arrest by ICE and Father’s Day in Jail

Jose Luis Garcia was watering his lawn and drinking his morning coffee outside his home in Southern California last Sunday when federal immigration authorities showed up.

Mr. Garcia — a 62-year-old Mexican immigrant who has been a legal resident since the 1980s, according to his family — shouted for help.

He spilled his coffee on the sidewalk as agents arrested him, said his daughter Natalie Garcia, who ran outside and saw her father handcuffed. She said the authorities told her they had a warrant for his arrest related to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge that was resolved nearly two decades ago.

“They are kidnapping people from their home, starting with my father, who has the legal status,” said Ms. Garcia, 32.

A week later, Mr. Garcia was still being held by immigration officials, and his family was preparing to spend Father’s Day without him.

Mr. Garcia and his family are among those who have been swept up in the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which cracks down not only on undocumented immigrants but also on legal residents. The administration makes it a priority to remove those who have pending criminal charges or any convictions in their past.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 162 people during a three-day roundup in the Los Angeles area last week. In a news release, the agency emphasized that the operation targeted immigrants who posed a safety risk, such as one Mexican who was a known gang member and had been convicted of rape.

But Mr. Garcia’s case appears to show just how sweeping ICE can be in making arrests regardless of an immigrant’s legal status or how long ago their criminal case was resolved. An agency spokeswoman said ICE did not exempt any class of “removable aliens” from potential enforcement as it seeks to uphold immigration law and protect public safety.

Mackenzie W. Mackins, an immigration lawyer representing Mr. Garcia, said it was a waste of taxpayer money to target her client.

“This is just an example of them going into our communities on a Sunday morning and picking people up who aren’t a danger or a threat or a flight risk,” she said.

But that is the new reality under the Trump administration, she said, adding, “Everyone is an enforcement priority.”

Mr. Garcia was 13 when he came to the United States, traveling from Mexico with his teenage brother, his daughter said. From then on, “he worked diligently to achieve the American dream,” she said.

He picked fruit in fields in Northern California, tried to make it as an amateur boxer and worked as a truck driver. But he has spent most of his career working as a machine operator at a factory, she said.

Her father received his green card and became a permanent legal resident in 1988, Ms. Garcia said.

In 2001, Mr. Garcia was convicted of a misdemeanor stemming from a dispute with his wife, according to his lawyer and his family. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court said he was sentenced to 25 days in jail and three years of probation. Ms. Garcia said that her father completed probation.

It was a domestic dispute they settled years ago, and “they are still married to this day,” Ms. Garcia said.

A spokeswoman for ICE said in a statement that Mr. Garcia was arrested because he “has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States.”

The spokeswoman would not specify the convictions, citing privacy rules. Ms. Garcia said she was not aware of other convictions in her father’s past.

Today, she said, he is a husband, a father to his five adult children and a “jolly grandpa” to his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Ms. Garcia, a single mother who works full time in public relations, said her father is helping to raise her 6-year-old daughter, Marley, who calls him Dad. Ms. Garcia often calls upon her father to pick up Marley from school or to help cook dinner.

The family had planned to celebrate Father’s Day with a barbecue, and Ms. Garcia had gifts already picked out.

Marley planned to give him a photo of the two of them, with the words “Best Dad!” in a heart. Ms. Garcia said she bought her father what she gives him for every occasion: clothing with the logos of his favorite teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the University of Southern California Trojans.

Instead, Mr. Garcia will spend Father’s Day at the Theo Lacy Facility, a maximum-security jail complex in Orange, Calif. His first court appearance is scheduled for June 29.

“It’s killing me,” Ms. Garcia said. “I’m a daddy’s girl. I miss him so much.”

Jack Begg contributed research.

Follow Sarah Mervosh on Twitter: @smervosh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Legal Resident Is Arrested in ICE Sweep Over Misdemeanor Nearly 2 Decades Old. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*