Dallas Mother Wearing Electronic Bracelet Fights Deportation
DALLAS -- Anatolia Garcia doesn't like the electronic bracelet shackled around her ankle, but she prefers it to the prospect of being deported and forced to leave her husband and three U.S.-born children.
Garcia, originally from the town of El Camaron in the Mexican region of Oaxaca, has been facing deportation since September, and she must wear the electronic ankle bracelet at least until an immigration court decision on her challenge to the deportation order.
"Even real criminals don't carry this around,” she said in Spanish about the monitoring device, which she tries to hide when attending school meetings for her children.
Last week the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office granted Garcia a 60-day extension to stay in the country. Though she currently must leave by December 16, she considers the temporary stay a small victory, achieved through public protests on her behalf outside ICE offices in Dallas.
"This is a terrible injustice," said Garcia, sitting in her living room during an interview with The Huffington Post. "I don't have a criminal record, and I have dutifully paid my taxes over the years."
Seven years ago, Garcia and her husband, Abel, applied for Temporary Protection Status, a distinction given to immigrants from countries that can't handle the return of immigrants, or where return would prove unsafe.
Abel, who is from El Salvador, a country that qualifies for the program, received protected status. But Anatolia, who is from Mexico, did not.
"I can't protect my wife," Abel Garcia said in Spanish, adding that his wife's immigration issues have been a longstanding burden for the family.
Abel Garcia, who works as a truck driver, is worried. He fled his country to save his life, he said. Now his family must come to terms with the likely deportation of his wife.
"They want to take her away from me," Garcia lamented. "Without her, my kids have no future. I can't take care of them because I have a job that can go anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a day and schedules that may start at 4 a.m."
Carl Rusnok, the spokesman for the ICE office in Dallas, declined to discuss the case without obtaining permission first from Garcia.
The couple is hoping that ICE will halt or suspend the deportation order after a Department of Homeland Security statement in August that it would stop seeking the deportation of immigrants with no criminal record.
The change in policy, detailed in the so-called Morton Memorandum, focuses on cases in which ICE has detained undocumented immigrants who have submitted applications to become legal residents. But it remains to be seen how the policy change will be applied in Garcia's case.
For the Garcia family, residents of the Dallas suburb of Irving, Anatolia Garcia represents a pillar of stability, her husband said. Their 10-year-old daughter, Jennifer, is active in gymnastics. Emanuel, 9, is a blue belt in karate; Jennifer, 12, is an avid reader.
Community activists and immigrant organizations have taken up the family’s cause.
"It's absolutely inhumane the fact that they make Anatolia wear an electronic shackle. It undermines her civil rights, especially because she is a mother and someone with no criminal record," said Jorge Rivera, leader of the local branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the largest and oldest national Hispanic civil rights organizations.
"How can you speak of democracy in this country if you violate civil rights within your own country's borders?" he asked, speaking in Spanish.
Carlos Quintanilla, one of the activists who organized the demonstrations outside the ICE offices, vowed to continue pressuring authorities.
"These extra 60 days are a blessing," he said, speaking in Spanish, of the temporary stay of her deportation. "They buy more time to pressure immigration [authorities] so she is free before deportation."
An earlier version of this report appeared on AOL Latino's Spanish-language news channel.