Screenshot via The Arizona Republic

Juan Carlos Fomperosa García, a 44-year-old construction worker in Phoenix, was planning a birthday party Thursday for his 17-year-old son when he stopped by the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office for what he thought was a routine check-in.

Instead he was arrested, held in custody overnight, and deported to Mexico the next day, leaving his three children—who are U.S. citizens aged 23, 17, and 14—alone and devastated.

Fomperosa, from Veracruz, Mexico, had been in this country off-and-on for 20 years and thought an asylum application he had previously submitted would protect him. In fact, he thought the meeting with ICE was to discuss that application.

Advertisement

His daughters held a tearful, gut-wrenching press conference on Thursday night. Oldest daughter Yennifer Sánchez said she thought the meeting with ICE would take only a few minutes, and she was focusing on the details of preparing for her brother’s birthday party.

“An hour later, as I was sitting out there waiting for him, two people and the guard came and brought me the bag and basically told me that my father was detained,” Sánchez, said, fighting back tears in a video posted at The Arizona Republic. Sánchez will now have to take care of her two siblings, she said.

Fomperosa’s case is one of several in the past month in both Phoenix and other cities, in which ICE agents have ripped apart families thanks to new policy directives put in place by the Trump administration.

Advertisement

In early February, immigration agents arrested longtime Phoenix resident Guadalupe “Lupita” García de Rayos, a 36-year-old mother in the country for 21 years. On Feb. 28, 48-year-old Romulo Avelica-González, who had been living in the U.S. for 25 years, was arrested in front of his wife and 12-year-old daughter near a school.

These are not the kind of hardened criminals Trump described as “bad hombres,” when he discussed the more stringent immigration directives. According to the Phoenix New Times, García’s two teenage children attended Trump’s speech to Congress this week, before which daughter Jacqueline García de Rayos said, “We aren’t criminals, we just work, we don’t do anything bad. Our community now lives in fear of being separated from our families.”

Advertisement

Sánchez, telling her own version of the family’s personal nightmare, wanted the world to know how kind and funny her father is.

“He loved telling jokes. He was always all the time cracking jokes, no matter the situation,” she said. “My dad loves Harry Potter. I was even planning on watching the whole thing with him, the marathon, because that’s the thing we do. He’s an amazing person.”

As the Phoenix New Times reported:

Advertisement

Fear is spreading in immigrant communities.

‘There is definitely more of an alarm after the inauguration and now again with the executive order,’ Dulce Juarez, outreach coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union, said. ‘Immigrant families are starting to realize, oh my gosh, he’s really coming after us. It’s sinking in.’

Before Trump was elected, Juarez got a request every month or so to conduct community know–your–rights meetings. Since November, she’s been asked to appear before schools, churches, or community groups twice a week. And it’s accelerating.

Immigrant advocacy group Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, is advising undocumented immigrants to “plan ahead and prepare for the worst if they have a check-in scheduled with ICE,” the Phoenix New Times reported. “That means finding an attorney who can accompany them to the meeting, as well as connecting with an organization like LUCHA that can provide support.”

If you can bear to watch it, here's a video of the children describing how much they love their father: