Politicians, union members and advocates rallied in Manhattan Tuesday for the release of a Guatemalan immigrant from Elmont who has been denied asylum — held for deportation since checking-in Thursday with immigration officers as part of a deal to let him stay in the U.S.
Outside the downtown office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, demonstrators showed their support for Eber Garcia-Vasquez, 54, a married father of three and grandfather of two.
Angela Fernandez, the executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said the federal government has no reason to deport Garcia-Vasquez back to Guatemala since he was working with ICE to resolve his immigration status and is a valued employee.
“That is why we are demanding that ICE use their discretion to release him from detention so he can be working and supporting his family while he is processing and adjudicating his case,” she said at Tuesday at ICE’s Federal Plaza headquarters in Foley Square.
Garcia-Vasquez and his attorney, Zachary Sanders, went Thursday to the ICE office in lower Manhattan as part of an order of supervision since 2013, Sanders said Monday. That order, put in place when Garcia-Vasquez’s asylum petition was rejected that year, allowed him to stay in the country if he reported annually to an immigration officer.
Sanders who is based in Inwood, said what had been a routine check-in turned into his client’s detention by authorities.
“We waited all morning, and when he got called in, it was clear to me the officer had made up his mind . . . and they quickly escorted me out.”
ICE officers then transported Garcia-Vasquez to a detention facility in Bergen County, New Jersey, Sanders said.
“In this particular case,” Sanders said, “you are going to force someone out who has a wife and three U.S. citizen children who rely on him . . . and you have his employer and union behind him.”
A representative for ICE contended that Garcia-Vasquez had exhausted his legal options.
“Garcia-Vasquez had been granted multiple stays of removal which have since expired,” the representative said in a statement. “He has a final order of removal and his order of supervision has been revoked.”
At the rally Tuesday, Sanders said his client could be deported any day. Even so, Sanders said he is working to keep Garcia-Vasquez in the United States while his status issues are sorted out.
The Elmont man’s wife, Maria Chavez, is an American citizen. She has remained in a wheelchair after injuring her leg in a car accident, family members said, and they are dependent on Garcia-Vasquez’s income.
“Me and my family need him,” said his youngest daughter, Arly Garcia, 19. “Without him we would crumble.”
Garcia-Vasquez’s tale of getting to the United States is typical of immigrants seeking refuge from their often unstable and dangerous homelands, Sanders said Monday.
His client was fleeing aggression from a “civil patrol commander” in his native Chicamán, Guatemala when he crossed the border illegally in 1988 and made his way to Long Island, Sanders said.
He sought asylum and waited for his case to make it through backlogged courts, Sanders said. Garcia-Vasquez’s request was eventually denied. He faced returning to Guatemala, where some of his relatives had met violent deaths after he fled, Sanders said, so Garcia-Vasquez chose to stay on Long Island.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who attended the rally, which was led by the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said it’s unimaginable that law-abiding immigrants would have to face the risk of deportation due to the recent crackdown on illegal immigration from Washington D.C.
She urged New Yorkers to voice their concerns to the federal government.
“We have to stand here united and say we will not stand for this,” the Council speaker said. “This is not what New York City believes in. This is not what this country believes in.”