March 30, 2018 — During a press conference call for reporters on Holy Thursday, the Jesuits reaffirmed their support for Felix Garcia, who is set to be deported to Guatemala; his daughter Belsy Garcia Manrique, a third-year Loyola University Chicago medical student; and their family.
“The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States is strongly committed to speaking out and to advocating to the fullest extent possible the rights of Felix Garcia and all who suffer by these senseless deportations,” said Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference during the call, which was organized by the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
“It is important to us [Jesuits] that Dreamers and their families know that we see them and that we are committed to standing in solidarity with them. We see the immense challenges they face, as well as the many gifts they offer our communities. We know that when their families are hurting, so too is our large family of faith.”
Felix Garcia is scheduled to be deported to Guatemala after living in the U.S. without incident for more than 20 years. In 1995, he came to the U.S. from Guatemala seeking asylum, after receiving threats because he was a political activist.
Upon arrival in the U.S., without knowledge of the English language and with no legal representation, he applied for asylum, stood trial with a federal judge and was ordered deported but did not leave the country. He did not know that he could appeal the decision. He taught himself English with a Spanish-to-English dictionary and obtained his GED, followed by an accounting diploma.
“He has always told my sisters and I to be good, hardworking individuals,” because that’s what he did, said Belsy Garcia Manrique during the press conference.
Belsy with her father, Felix Garcia.
Belsy is studying to be a physician; her middle sister is studying to be a nurse; and her youngest sister wants to be a veterinarian. “We’re going to be a positive change for this country,” Belsy said.
By 2009, Felix 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.
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 will separate him from Belsy and his two other daughters, all living in the U.S.
“I thought it was important to advocate for him,” said Belsy. “I can be a voice for others; I can be a voice for the thousands of immigrant families who are currently going through the exact same thing. Families are being separated solely because of harsh laws that are very inhumane.
“I’m here to ask ICE to please let my father go and allow him to stay with us,” she said.
Mark G. Kuczewski, PhD, a professor of Medical Ethics at Loyola University Chicago, said Belsy is one of 32 DACA recipients at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, and that students’ families are part of our communities as well.
“When Belsy received her white lab coat that she could train in and go onto the clinic floor, her father was here to watch her receive that. The support of family is at the root of their success. … Keeping families together — family unity — is the basis of our society,” said Kuczewski. “This will rip a hole in the fabric of our community to deport Felix Garcia.”
Belsy said she plans to practice family medicine and is looking forward to applying to the Cook County Residency program in Chicago because they provide medical care for underserved populations, which is her goal: to make a positive impact on a community that needs it.
When asked how she would respond to those who ask why her father didn’t leave the U.S. when the judge ordered him to in 1995, Belsy said: “At the end of the day, my dad was looking out for his family, for his 7-year-old and 5-year-old daughters and their safety, their future. As a father that’s what you should be doing for your kids. That is morally right and ethically right. … No one would actively come here illegally and go through all of that hardship. The laws need to be rewritten.”
“My family is going through an extremely hard time now, but it’s important to realize that is not just about my family, it’s about all the other families going through this as well,” Belsy said.
Click here to stand in solidarity with Belsy and Felix by signing on to a letter to the director of the Atlanta regional office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).