Our nation's leaders have played politics on immigration reform for too long, and it results in heartbreaking circumstances, including family breakups.
News is breaking this morning of the terribly sad story of Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old illegal immigrant and father of two, who has been living in the US for the past thirty years. Garcia, who worked as a landscaper, said goodbye to his wife, daughter and son at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, escorted by two immigration agents from the federal government.
This story is sure to be played out across the media, both mainstream and social, as another case of the dictatorial Trump Administration ripping babies from the arms of mothers and tossing them over the already-built portions of the wall between the US and Mexico, and leaving them to fend for themselves.
But a closer look tells a quite different story. Garcia was brought to the US by his parents, also illegal immigrants, at the age of 10, according to reports. He appears to have led a quiet life, with no criminal record. He met and married his wife, Cindy, who is a retired auto worker and a citizen of the US, fifteen years ago.
While attempting to gain legal status in 2005, Garcia was flagged for deportation. Since that time, he has received numerous stays of removal, but he was too old to qualify for “Dreamer” status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, designed to protect children of illegal immigrants.
In other words, Garcia was figuratively kicked down the road by the previous administration’s policies of not enforcing immigration laws on the books, and now that the Trump Administration has decided to enforce the laws, Garcia becomes the new face of government cruelty for immigration advocates.
Sadly, had the laws been followed in the first place, Garcia would very likely be living in Michigan with his family and all of this would be behind him by now. That begs the question, which was the harsher punishment, allowing him to remain in the US, constantly looking over his shoulder for ICE agents, knowing the time was coming at any point in the last 15 years, or finally being held accountable and seeking to resolve the issue?
From all appearances, Garcia is the kind of immigrant most people would welcome into the US; hardworking, law abiding, and a family man. But the fact remains, his family committed a crime by coming here illegally, and bringing him with them, and continued to commit the crime by living here undocumented.
That may not be a crime on par with joining a gang and murdering innocent citizens, but is a crime nevertheless. And Garcia should be willing to accept the responsibility for his actions, maybe not as a 10-year-old, but as an adult years later. He should have done so years ago, and implemented steps to gain US citizenship, even if it included deportation and applying legally.
The bigger crime is the fact that our government has failed repeatedly to address the issues of illegal immigration through legislation. Instead of passing laws to fix the problems, decrees were issued to postpone enforcement, or officials even chose to just ignore the laws currently on the books altogether, leaving generations of undocumented aliens in limbo, fear, and uncertainty.
And if the laws aren’t changed, sooner or later, someone will enforce them, and that is what brought us to this situation at the Detroit airport.
It is a terrible thing to see a family separated, but it is also a terrible thing to selective enforcement of immigration laws based on a political philosophy. This problem can be solved with bi-partisan efforts. Everybody may not get everything they want, but it can be improved to allow people like Jorge Garcia to become valuable American citizens.
But as long as immigration reform gets treated like a political football, there will be thousands upon thousands of Jorge Garcia stories in the news. That, truly, is a sad, sad story.