BY ISN STAFF | March 24, 2018
“Solidarity” was the theme of a prayer vigil hosted by students and faculty at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. The group of more than fifty supporters were there to support Belsy Garcia, a third-year medical student whose father is facing imminent deportation.
“We held this prayer service in solidarity with Belsy and Felix Garcia and to ask God to touch the hearts of our public officials such as Director Sean Gallagher whom we are petitioning for justice,” said Mark G. Kuczewski, Ph.D., chair of the Stritch School’s Medical Education department. “At this moment when these particular members of our community are in pain, it is important together in prayer and love and to ask God to hold this family close.”
In 1995, Felix Garcia came to the U.S. from Guatemala seeking asylum. Upon arrival in the U.S., without knowledge of the English language and with no legal representation, he stood trial with a federal judge and was ordered deported, but did not leave the country. He taught himself English with a Spanish-to-English dictionary and obtained his GED followed by an accounting diploma. By 2009, Garcia was working at a carpet factory in the U.S. when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began an investigation into the company, taking information on all undocumented employees. Garcia cooperated with the investigation and was not deemed a priority for deportation under the Obama administration.
Garcia was permitted to stay in the U.S. with his family with the agreement that he would annually both check in with ICE and file a Stay of Deportation, which until this year was approved. During a recent routine check-in, Garcia was detained and his Stay of Deportation was denied, despite having no criminal record. He is currently awaiting deportation in Stewart Detention Center in rural Georgia. His deportation, scheduled for April 4, 2018, will separate him from Belsy and her two sisters — one who has already earned an undergraduate degree and the other who is currenlty enrolled in an undergraduate institution.
Belsy, is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, earned her undergraduate degree at Marion University, and was a 4.0 GPA student at her high school in Calhoun, Georgia. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) shared Belsy’s story on the floor of the United States Senate in 2017, sharing a variety of ways she is involved at Loyola’s campus and her desire to provide medical care in underserved communities in Illinois after she graduates.
“[My dad] made us volunteer and he was always about us doing well in school,” she told Catholic News Service in a recent interview about her father’s deportation. On Felix’s detention and impending deportation, she said, “It’s been extremely hard. It’s hard to focus on your studies when your dad is in a detention center. I feel helpless … it’s a lot of emotions.”
In partnership with the Stritch School, the Ignatian Solidarity Network has organized a sign-on letter being delivered to ICE officials and also being shared with Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Georgia Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, and Representative Barry Loudermilk who represents Georgia’s 11th district where the Garcia family lives. Click here to sign-on to the letter