An Arizona man who was detained by immigration officials Thursday was deported to Mexico Friday afternoon.
Juan Carlos Fomperosa Garcia, 44, showed up for a check-in meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Phoenix Thursday morning but was taken into custody, according to his daughter Yennifer Sanchez, 23.
He had a work permit and is a single dad of three U.S. citizens, according to Sanchez. Friday night, the children traveled to Nogales, Sonora, to spend the weekend with Fomperosa Garcia.
ICE, in a statement Friday, confirmed Fomperosa Garcia's deportation. Its databases showed Fomperosa Garcia has been previously repatriated to Mexico three times, including a formal deportation in 2014. In 2016, Fomperosa Garcia again was ordered removed by an immigration judge, with a second immigration judge upholding the decision, the statement said.
Databases show Fomperosa Garcia was convicted in 2015 of a federal misdemeanor charge, the statement said.
"ICE will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with criminal convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts.” the statement said.
Sanchez said Friday her father was not a criminal.
“When I hear those words being said about my dad and seeing the type of person he is, it hurts because ‘a criminal’ would never be a way that I describe my father,” she said as she wiped tears from her face.
Fomperosa Garcia did not have an attorney, according to the family.
Immigration attorney Ayensa Millan began to represent him Thursday night after he was detained.
Millan said there isn’t any immediate relief from the deportation order that would allow him to return to the U.S.
Millan said Fomperosa Garcia was seeking asylum because after being deported in 2014, “threats (were made) to his family because the kids are U.S. citizens.”
“We see this a lot lately, especially in Mexico,” she said. “(People recently deported) usually stay close to the border so family can go see them. 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 an interview with The Arizona Republic in Nogales, Sonora, Fomperosa Garcia said his misdemeanor charge was for crossing the border with false documents. He said in his native state of Veracruz he has received death threats against his children from a faction of a drug cartel, Los Zetas.
Sanchez, who works as a caretaker, said she will now be in charge of sustaining her siblings who are still in school.
This is the second time in less than a month that an undocumented parent of U.S. citizen children has been deported, leaving a family separated.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos of Mesa was taken into custody Feb. 8 when she went to check in at ICE offices.
When the clock struck twelve on Thursday morning, Fomperosa Garcia walked into his son's bedroom to wake him up and sing happy birthday, as was the family tradition, his daughters said.
On his phone, he blasted "Las Mañanitas" as his two daughters, Sanchez and Karla Fomperosa, 14, brought in the cake for their brother.
Fomperosa Garcia didn't get to celebrate his son's 17th birthday later Thursday as he had planned.
About 9 a.m., Fomperosa Garcia went into a meeting with ICE officials in Phoenix. Sanchez claimed he had a meeting on his asylum case.
About an hour later, three people stepped out of the ICE offices to tell Sanchez her father was detained.
They gave her a green tote bag with the paperwork he had brought for his case, Sanchez recounted Thursday night in tears.
"I didn't get to say bye to him," she said. "The last thing I said was, 'Go in there, don't be late.' "
About noon, she got a call from him. He told her he was going to be deported, Thursday or Friday.
ICE, in its statement, made no mention of any pending asylum case.
Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, the ICE spokeswoman in Phoenix, said asylum cases are handed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, not ICE.
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.”
Speaking about their father
Thursday night, the sisters spoke at a news conference at the offices of Living United for Change Arizona, a community group that advocates for civic engagement with immigrant families.
Sanchez and Fomperosa were emotional Thursday night, laughing and crying as they spoke of their father.
Sanchez said her father had a work permit, and she thought that gave him a security against deportation, she said.
"He's not here illegally, I thought they were only taking people who had committed crimes," Sanchez said.
Fomperosa Garcia is a single dad from Veracruz, Mexico, she said. He came to the U.S. when he was 24 and worked in construction. His two daughters and son are U.S. citizens.
The daughters were distraught.
"My father is not a criminal. He's not one of those people that you hear on the news that President Trump says,'' Sanchez said through tears. "He's not a rapist, he's not a drug dealer and he's not a murderer. My father's an honest, working man, a family man that loves everyone he meets. He cares too much and that's the only crime.''
"Please, everyone, be aware. They are taking everyone,'' she said.
'I wanted it to be a normal day'
Karla Fomperosa, the youngest, is an eighth-grader in Phoenix. The last time she saw her dad was before boarding the school bus Thursday morning.
"I didn't think anything was going to happen, I wanted it to be a normal day," she said. When she returned home from school, she saw her brother "crying on the couch." That's when she knew what had happened, she said.
Republic reporters Rafael Carranza and Daniel Gonzalez contributed to this article.
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