An illegal immigrant who had been living in the U.S. for almost 30 years said goodbye to his family before boarding a flight to Mexico Monday morning while accompanied by two U.S. immigration agents.
Jorge Garcia, who worked as a landscaper, was deported after living in the U.S. for nearly three decades.
The 39-year-old married father of two has been facing an order of removal since 2009, according to the Detroit Free Press. His wife and children are U.S. citizens.
The previous administration had granted extensions to Garcia’s status.
Under the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, Garcia was ordered to leave the country immediately when he reported to his regular Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-in in November, Cindy Garcia, his wife, told the Free Press.
Initially, Jorge Garcia was scheduled to leave the day after Thanksgiving, but immigration officials granted a short-term extension through Jan. 15 after a request from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).
How did Garcia come to the U.S.?
An undocumented family member brought Jorge Garcia to the U.S. when he was 10 years old, and he has lived here since.
“Yes, he was brought here at 10 years old and yes, he entered the country illegally, but he has no criminal record and his case needs to be looked at individually because he deserves to be here in a country that he’s known — not Mexico,” Cindy Garcia told CNN during an interview Tuesday.
His family told the Free Press that he’d spent about $125,000 in legal fees since 2005, trying to find a way to remain in the country legally.
Jorge Garcia did not qualify for DACA because of age restrictions. To become eligible for DACA, an illegal immigrant must be older than 15 and below 31 as of June 15, 2013, according to the U.S. Immigration Center.
A small group of Jorge Garcia’s supporters gathered at the airport, holding signs that read, “Stop separating families.”
Cindy Garcia told CNN she supports protecting the borders, but she believes that ICE should address each immigrant’s status separately.
She added that the “broken” immigration system needs fixing and there should be a “right way to citizenship.”