ICE arrests man with Reagan-era legal status over 17-year-old misdemeanor

By Danielle Haynes

June 14 (UPI) -- Immigration officials arrested a Mexican national -- who's had legal status in the United States since the 1980s -- over a 17-year-old misdemeanor conviction, federal officials said. He now faces deportation.

Jose Luis Garcia, 62, was watering the lawn at his home in the Arleta area of Los Angeles on Sunday morning when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrived and put him in handcuffs. The man's daughter, Natalie Garcia, said she heard her father shouting outside and requested to see a warrant for her father's arrest.


She said the officers refused.

"They said it wasn't a criminal offense, it was administrative. They had to take him. It was due to a domestic violence dispute back in 2001," she said.

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Jose Luis Garcia pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in 2001 and served his sentence -- anger management classes and probation.


"Databases reveal that Mr. Garcia has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States," a statement from ICE said. "Mr. Garcia is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings, where an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review will determine whether or not he has a lawful basis to remain in the United States."

His arrest comes amid crackdowns by the Trump administration on undocumented immigrants crossing the border and those already in the United States. President Donald Trump promised to make deporting those with criminal backgrounds a priority over law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

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"What we are going to do is get the people that are criminals and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate," Trump said less than a week after he won the 2016 election. "But we're getting them out of our country, they're here illegally.

"After the border is secure and after everything gets normalized, we're going to make a determination on the people that they're talking about who are terrific people, they're terrific people but we are gonna make a determination at that."


Natalie Garcia said the despite her father's misdemeanor, her family didn't expect for ICE to arrest him.

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"My dad was comfortable," she said. "There was no reason for my dad not to get his citizenship. It was just the awareness. He was just too comfortable. He's a homeowner who pays his taxes.

"His case was closed, but they're bringing up everybody's past," she added. "If you're going to flag people and call them criminals, and you're looking at everyone's background, I think they should be aware of that."

Jose Luis Garcia came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13 years old and was granted legal status under the Reagan-era Immigration Reform and Control Act. His daughter said he's had the same job for 35 years.

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The family obtained an immigration lawyer and has been in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union about his case.

"From what we know of this story, this is not an individual that presents a threat to anyone," said Michael Kaufman, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

"It's part of a pattern that we've seen of rounding up people who are longstanding members of our community who have family here and settled lives here and their lives are turned upside down because they may have committed some misdemeanor deep in their past."


Jose Luis Garcia will go before an immigration court to argue his case for staying in the United States. A backlog of immigration cases, though, means it could take months or years to resolve. Kaufman said it's possible he could be released on bond in the meantime.

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