Gaston Cazares, a 45-year-old father of two U.S citizens and spouse of 22 years to another U.S citizen, was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Thursday under the new administration's policies.
I wish every single person had to watch this so that could understand that real families are being torn apart for no reason💔— Kate (@kateana88) September 29, 2017
Cazares moved to California illegally from a small town in Mexico when he was 16. He said where he lived the only job available was to work in the mines, "I thought to myself I need to do something better for me, my future and my family." He had heard people say that "America was the land of opportunity," so he moved to San Diego a in search of a better life.
Since living in the U.S, he's worked, paid taxes and become a pillar in his community.
“I've paid taxes since the first year I moved to the United States. I've tried to do everything the best," said Cazares. "I always dreamed of being legal in this country and I know the only way is by the doing the right things."
He's worked for the same company the last 15 years. His boss called him one the best employees they has ever had and said losing him would be a huge blow to the business.
"He’s a really hard worker. One of the best workers here. He wouldn't be here 15 years or any company 15 years if he wasn’t," he said in an interview with UndocuMedia. "He’s been very responsible. He works five six seven days, whatever it takes. We've had a good relationship, Gaston and I over those 15 years. He works at all facets in this business and we really need him here."
In 2011, he was arrested during a raid at his workplace and spent two months in a federal jail. He was granted humanitarian discretion and allowed to stay in the county under the condition that he would present himself to the ICE office whenever requested, typically once a year. He has never missed a check-in since.
"I did it every year until January of this year," he said. "It was only four days since Trump was sworn in as president when I came to the routine visit at the ICE office downtown. I was surprised when they said they were going to deport me, because there was a new law that made me deportable."
In April, his attorney submitted a petition for humanitarian discretion along with a petition from Congressman Juan Vargas requesting ICE provide discretion to Cazares' case. "The boy is emotionally dependent on his father, who helps him get by," the lawyer said. "I do not have the slightest doubt that being a person with autism will pay the consequences," he added.
Three months later, Cazares got a letter telling him to report back to ICE on Sept. 28, 2017 for deportation.
"I ask, please let me stay here with my family, they need me." That was the last thing Cazares said before immigration officials ruled to deport him and it was carried out the same day.
Less than an hour after he entered federal offices, and despite his legal team being asked to apply the law in a humane manner, the authorities proceeded to deport him and transported him to Tijuana.
His lawyer went outside to inform his family. He wasn't even granted a moment to say goodbye.
Cazares told reporters before his hearing Thursday that he was heartbroken at the thought of leaving his wife of 23 years and both his teenage children, all of whom are American citizens. He said he was worried for his family and his priority was to find a job in Tijuana so he could continue to support them as he has for the last 23 years.
His daughter is graduating from high school this spring and said she cannot imagine her father, who drove her to school every morning since kindergarten, not being there.
His son Ivan has autism. His well-being and progress heavily relies on the consistency and guidance of his father.
Ryan Giertych is an autism specialist and Ivan Cazares’ case manager. In an interview with UnDocumedia before Cazares was deported, he said the impact of losing his father would be devastating. "That would be a major disruption for anybody in general but especially for an individual with autism that really prefers to have a routine," he said. "If he loses that kind of consistency all of a sudden, that would be very concerning. Especially as an educator as this case manager you know if that were to happen...that would be pretty detrimental to [his] progress and education.”
The activist organization UndocuMedia started the campaign #weareallgaston and created a donation page to raise money for Gaston and his family while they figure out how to move forward. Click here to find out what you can do to help.