BY ISN STAFF | March 28, 2018

“As people of faith we are called to recognize and uphold the humanity and dignity of each person, including those fleeing their homes, seeking safety for themselves and their families,” said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, in a statement issued of support for Felix Garcia, a Georgia resident facing imminent deportation. Garcia is the father of three daughters, including Belsy Garcia, a third-year medical student at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. The Atlanta Catholic Archdiocese serves the approximately 1.2 million Catholics in the 69 counties of north and central Georgia.

Archbishop Gregory’s Statement (PDF version – English / Español):

Archbishop Gregory [Catholic News Agency]

Felix Garcia, a father, husband, and resident of Calhoun, Georgia, a community in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, will be deported to Guatemala after 23 years in the United States. He came to our country seeking asylum – safety for his wife and small daughters after suffering political persecution in his home country. During his years in the U.S., he earned a GED and accounting diploma, has been a business owner, and has supported his daughters as they pursue higher education. Upon deportation, he will be separated from his family.

As people of faith we are called to recognize and uphold the humanity and dignity of each person, including those fleeing their homes, seeking safety for themselves and their families. In his World Day of Migrants and Refugees statement in January of this year, Pope Francis made a clear call for family unity: “The family’s integrity must always be promoted, supporting family reunifications,” citing families as the bedrock of culture and values. 

The deportation of Felix Garcia undermines the integrity of his family and his role in his Georgia community. In standing with the Garcia family, we assert that we support the unity and dignity of all families and commit to continued work to build communities where all are truly welcome, including those seeking safety and a better life for their families.

Archbishop Wilton G. Gregory
March 27, 2018

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. According to a recent report in The Huffington Post, Garcia did not know that he could appeal, and because he didn’t do so at the time, it became increasingly more difficult to have the removal overturned overtime, particularly with deportation imminent.

After remaining in the U.S., Garcia 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 currently enrolled in an undergraduate institution.

Belsy-Garcia-Felix-Garcia

Belsy Garcia and her father Felix Garcia.

Belsy, is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, earned her undergraduate degree at Mercer 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 Tom Graves who represents Georgia’s 14th district where the Garcia family lives. Click here to sign-on to the letter

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