The daughter of a Los Angeles man who was detained Sunday outside his home by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents spoke out this week about his treatment and the immigration policies that appear to target longtime, law-abiding residents.
Jose Luis Garcia, 62, was watering his lawn and having his morning coffee outside his home in the Arleta neighborhood of San Fernando Valley when ICE agents put him in handcuffs and detained him, according to his daughter, Natalie Garcia.
The arrest came as a shock to the 32-year-old Garcia, who said that her father is a law-abiding, legal permanent resident who came to the United States nearly 50 years ago when he was 13 years old.
He attended Van Nuys High School, and raised his family in Glendale, she said.
Garcia said she was woken up at about 7 a.m. Sunday by the sound of her father yelling her name. She initially thought he was experiencing a medical emergency, but when she came out of the house, she saw eight agents who she did not yet know were from ICE, arresting her father.
Garcia tried to get more information and asked to see the arrest warrant and if they had read him his rights. She said the agents responded rudely, did not answer most of her questions, and told her they did not have to show her the warrant. They told her that it was not a criminal warrant, but an administrative one.
“I didn’t know they were ICE at that moment,” Garcia said. “It just happened so fast and there were so many of them. I was so confused.”
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After the agents had left with her father, it was only then that she saw the coffee cup that he had dropped when he was being arrested. She then looked down at the card the agents had given her and finally realized the agents were from ICE.
“I dropped to the floor in shock, because I didn’t ever expect this,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that she had followed news about the arrests of immigrants who were in the country illegally, but it had not occurred to her that something similar could happen to her own family.
“My dad was comfortable,” she said. “There was no reason for my dad not to get his citizenship. It was just the awareness. He was just too comfortable. He’s a homeowner who pays his taxes.”
“That’s why I urge people to look into your rights and get citizenship if you are able to,” she said.
Garcia said her father has a conviction for a misdemeanor stemming from a domestic violence dispute with her mother that occurred 18 years ago. Her father completed his sentence for that conviction, which was anger management classes and reporting to probation, she said.
ICE officials confirmed in a statement that Garcia, who is a citizen of Mexico, was arrested by deportation officers on Sunday.
“Databases reveal that Mr. Garcia has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States,” the statement said. “Mr. Garcia is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings, where an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will determine whether or not he has a lawful basis to remain in the United States.”
ICE officials would not confirm or reveal details about the nature of the “past criminal convictions,” citing confidentiality reasons.
Garcia said she has been able to visit her father at the Theo Lacy detention facility in Orange County since his arrest, and was able to bring medication to him and talk with him.
“He is obviously devastated and in shock right now,” she said.
Garcia said that after her father was taken away on Sunday, she felt like a “sitting duck,” but wanted to do something about it. She reached out to media because she wanted to bring greater awareness to what happened to her father, because she felt that not many may realize it could happen to them as well.
“His case was closed, but they’re bringing up everybody’s past,” she said. “If you’re going to flag people and call them criminals, and you’re looking at everyone’s background, I think they should be aware of that.”
“You’re digging into people’s past, not looking at your record now, or what’s happening right now at this moment,” she said. “That should be known.”
Garcia said her father being detained so suddenly is disruptive to their family in many ways, including the fact that he is helping to care for and serve as a role model to her six-year-old daughter.
“For me, it’s devastating,” she said. “Because of him, I’m able to work a full-time job. I was able to go back to school and do my career the way that I want.”
“Having to explain that to my daughter, is devastating — that grandpa is not here,” she said.
Michael Kaufman, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the incident appears to fit a pattern under the Trump administration of detaining people with old, minor convictions.
“This is … a misdemeanor from two decades ago for which he’s completed his sentence,” Kaufman, who briefly spoke to Natalie Garcia but is not representing the family, said. “From what we know of this story, this is not an individual that presents a threat to anyone.”
Kaufman noted that the current administration no longer prioritizes targeting people with serious criminal convictions.
“It’s part of a pattern that we’ve seen of rounding up people who are longstanding members of our community who have family here and settled lives here and their lives are turned upside down because they may have committed some misdemeanor deep in their past,” Kaufman said.
Garcia will have an opportunity in immigration court to raise a defense against his removal from the country. But because the immigration courts are severely backlogged, that could take many months and in some cases, years to resolve, Kaufman said.Garcia may be eligible to be released on bond while his claims are being heard, he added.
Kaufman said it wasn’t clear to him why ICE officials decided to target this man two decades later.