Deported single dad worries about the future of his U.S.-born children in Phoenix
Family reunites Friday night in Nogales, Mexico, with uncertain future; older sister vows to care for siblings in school in Phoenix
Juan Carlos Fomperosa Garcia paced side to side on Friday night as throngs of people made their way along the narrow sidewalk leading to the main pedestrian crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico.
He had his hand in his pockets. His brown eyes, now wet with tears, lasered through the small clusters walking toward him, searching, scanning for the only three faces he wanted to see.
“Now I feeling very emotional,” he said.
Fomperosa Garcia wore the same clothes he’d put on Thursday morning: black slacks, a baby blue shirt, a charcoal hoodie and black dress shoes. That morning — the day of his son’s 17th birthday — he went to a check-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix.
He did not expect to spend the night in a detention cell in Florence, much less, deported back in Mexico on an overcast Friday afternoon.
“For me it was a surprise to see my daughters this morning on the news talking about my case,” Fomperosa Garcia told The Republic Friday afternoon in Nogales, as he held back tears.
That night, when his eyes fell upon the tear-soaked face of Yennifer Sanchez, his oldest daughter, Fomperosa Garcia quickly glided in her direction. When she spotted him, she started running, and her sister Karla, 14, and brother, 17, ran behind her.
The four embraced tightly, relieved. But the sadness quickly overcame the U.S.-born children as they buried their faces in their father’s chest, loudly sobbing.
This is at least the second time in less than a month that an undocumented parent of U.S. citizen children in Arizona has been deported, leaving a family separated.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos of Mesa was taken into custody Feb. 8 and swiftly deported when she went to check in at ICE offices in Phoenix.
A history of deportations, death threats
Fomperosa Garcia was ordered removed in 2016 by an immigration judge, with a second immigration judge upholding the decision, according to Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, an ICE spokeswoman in Phoenix.
ICE databases show Fomperosa Garcia has been previously repatriated to Mexico three times, including a formal deportation in August 2014. In 2015, he was convicted of a federal misdemeanor charge, using fake documents to try to enter into the U.S.
He first came to the U.S. illegally in 1998 but returned voluntarily to Mexico in 2013 with his children after separating from his wife, he said.
Back in his native state of Veracruz, he received death threats against his children from a faction of a drug cartel, Los Zetas, he said.
He showed up at the U.S. border in Nogales in October 2013, claimed asylum and was detained for 11 months at the Eloy Detention Center. He became frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of progress and abandoned the claim, something he now said he regrets. And so he was deported in August 2014. Once again, his children went with him and the same death threats ensued, he said.
“We see this a lot lately, especially in Mexico,” said immigration attorney Ayensa Millan who began to represent Fomperosa Garcia Thursday night after he was detained. “There are a lot of criminal organizations in Mexico that target people like him, because they know they have been repatriated and they have family in the United States.”
In some cases, she said, recent deportees are kidnapped, blackmailed and threatened.
Maria Elena Upson, a spokeswoman for USCIS, said in an email, “Due to the sensitivity of asylum program, we do not confirm or deny if someone has applied for asylum.”
Millan said there isn’t any immediate relief that would allow him to return to the U.S.
A U.S. work permit valid until July
Fomperosa Garcia did not have an attorney present when he met with ICE Thursday, according to the family. He said he didn’t believe he needed one. After submitting another claim for asylum, the father of three eventually received a work permit and a Social Security number. Both were valid until July 2017.
Millan said Fomperosa Garcia’s deportation could have been halted administratively, had he sought proper counsel. But the family didn’t get the appropriate help in time, she said.
“It sounds to me that there was a lack of information from the client,” Millan said. “I think there is a huge lack of information in the community.”
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Immigrants rights group Living United for Change Arizona advised other families to prepare.
“Dozens of families will need to go to ICE for these kind of check-ins, and it’s important for them to know what are the potential impacts this can have for families and how they should prepare by seeking an attorney’s help and connecting with a community organization,” said LUCHA in a statement.
Fomperosa Garcia understood his meeting with ICE Thursday morning was in reference to his asylum case, and Millan said, “That does sound procedurally accurate.”
What likely happened, she said, is that his order of removal was reinstated once he checked in, allowing for a very small window for appeal.
“With the memos issued by the Trump administration, they’ve already made it very clear that people who have final orders of removal are priorities and will be removed,” she said.
Worried about children’s future
Again, Fomperosa Garcia is uncertain what will happen to his children.
“I wouldn’t like for them to come back with me to Veracruz, but maybe they’ll feel lonely and maybe they’ll want to come,” he said. “God forbid something happens to them, I will blame the U.S. government, if something happens to my kids.
“My children are U.S. citizens, they are going to school. … Studying means a future for them, and that’s what really worries me.”
His is the only source of support for his children, and that’s why he insists on returning to the U.S., he said.
“When they can depend on themselves, no problem. I know how to obey an order,” he said.
In 2013, he said his daughter Sanchez, now 23, gave up a scholarship to go to college to help her dad support the children while he was in immigration detention. Now, she again will be looking after her brother and sister.
“She’s a young woman of 23 years, and she had to take over,” he said. “It hurts me to truncate her career. She was a good student, but she had to take over the children … so it’s hard for me because I’m cutting her life short.”
Friday afternoon, in front of reporters, as she held her younger sister’s hand, Sanchez said she’ll make sure her siblings stay in school and that they’ll try to “keep going” on their own.
She shared a message for other children of recently deported parents.
“If you are the older sibling, stay strong for them because they might not know what’s happening. Stay strong, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t let this take you down at all. … It’s going to happen, we have to keep going.”