Elected officials, union members and other advocates rallied outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s downtown Manhattan headquarters Tuesday, demanding the release of a Guatemalan immigrant who has been living and working on Long Island for nearly 30 years.
Angela Fernandez, the executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said the federal government has no reason to deport Eber Garcia Vasquez, 54, back to Guatemala since he was working with the government to resolve his undocumented status.
The Elmont, Long Island, resident, a plant maintenance mechanic with medical waste company Stericycle, has been providing for his wife, three children and two grandchildren for years and is a valued worker for the business, according to Fernandez.
“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.
Garcia Vasquez, who is married to an American citizen, has been working to get a green card for years and petitioned for asylum in 2013. The petition was rejected, but the federal government gave an order of supervision that allowed him to stay in the country if he reported annually to an immigration officer, according to his attorney Zachary Sanders.
Garcia Vasquez and Sanders attended one of those meetings with an officer at the ICE office last Thursday and the immigrant was detained and placed in a correctional facility in Bergen County, New Jersey.
“I submitted the arguments [for] how he can qualify for his green card through his wife and citizen son … and they literally didn’t even accept these papers,” Sanders said.
A representative for ICE contended that Garcia Vasquez has exhausted his legal options.
“Garcia Vasquez had been granted multiple stays of removal which have since expired. He has a final order of removal and his order of supervision has been revoked,” the representative said in a statement.
Sanders said his client could be deported any day but he is working to keep him in the United States while his green card issues are sorted out. Garcia Vasquez’s wife, Maria Chavez, is currently in a wheelchair after injuring her leg in a car accident and the family depends on his work, family members said.
“Me and my family need him. Without him we would crumble,” said Arly Garcia, 19, Garcia Vasquez’s youngest daughter.
Garcia Vasquez had the support of Teamsters Local 813, of which he has been a member since 1988, at Tuesday’s rally. George Miranda, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, took aim at the Trump Administration’s policies on immigration, calling it out for separating his member from his family.
“He’s been a good working Teamster,” he said. “He’s done nothing wrong. Nothing.”
Several elected officials who attended the rally, which was led by the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, echoed this sentiment. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said it was unimaginable that law-abiding immigrants would have to face the risk of deportation, due to the recent crackdown on illegal immigration from Washington.
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.”