A DACA recipient was detained Monday by immigration officers at the Skokie Courthouse, something that family and supporters claim should have been prevented by Cook County’s sanctuary ordinance.
Christian Gomez Garcia, 29, who first received deferred action from deportation under the DACA program in 2012, came to the United States with his mother from Hidalgo, Mexico, at the age of 6 in 1995. As of Wednesday afternoon, he was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Kenosha County Detention Center in Wisconsin.
“I’m really frustrated, this is like a nightmare, a horrible nightmare,” his mother, 52-year-old Luz Maria Garcia, said through tears with the assistance of a translator, during a press conference Wednesday outside the courthouse. She left her family behind in Mexico to flee domestic violence and lives alone with her son in Skokie, where he helps support her.
In an emailed statement late Wednesday, an ICE spokeswoman said, “After further review of his case circumstances, Mr. Gomez Garcia is scheduled to be released on Feb. 1.” Additional details were not provided.
Rev. Jose Landaverde, of Faith, Life and Hope Mission in West Chicago, said, “This is a victory, the Homeland Security is accepting that they have made a mistake and violated a federal court decision.”
Gomez Garcia was issued a misdemeanor in December for a traffic violation — running a stop sign — in Skokie, family and community activists said. Plainclothes ICE agents were allegedly waiting for him in the lobby of the courthouse after his hearing.
“This should not be permitted in a public building area, people that need the services are going to refrain from use of these services because they’re afraid of ICE being present,” said Gomez Garcia’s lawyer, Juan Soliz. “In this case, they’re going to be afraid to come take care of their tickets, take care of their problems. … They’re not going to be wanting to come to court if there’s a fear that ICE could arrest them.”
Landaverde said he wasn’t sure if it was someone in the courthouse or the Skokie Police Department who tipped off ICE about Gomez Garcia’s status, but said the county’s sanctuary ordinance should have prevented his detention.
“They are violating the sanctuary ordinance, this court has sent many people to the Department of Homeland Security,” he said.
A representative from Skokie Police Department said, “administration contacted the arresting officer in the Gomez Garcia case and we are confident that no call was made to ICE from SPD personnel.”
In March, Gomez Garcia applied to renew his DACA status at the Chicago office of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, but his family claims something went wrong and his application was never received at the Department of Homeland Security. He filed a new renewal application on Tuesday.
“He’s never had any criminal record, the only thing he’s ever dedicated himself is to study and work,” Maria Garcia said, adding that her son was studying to be a real estate agent and loan officer at a college in Palatine.
Landaverde was on the phone with Gomez Garcia before the start of the press conference, and said he’s “very positive.”
The Cook County Board approved its sanctuary ordinance in 2011, restricting local law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration agents to detain anyone unless the feds have a warrant. The Chicago City Council passed the similar Welcoming City Ordinance in 2012 and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a similar law, the TRUST Act, in August.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is appealing a September order by a federal judge — in a case filed by the city of Chicago — blocking the Trump administration’s efforts to keep fiscal year 2017 grant money from sanctuary cities.
One condition requires the city to give federal agents, when requested, a 48-hour heads up of the scheduled release date and time “of an alien in the jurisdiction’s custody.” Another requires federal access to “any correctional or detention facility in order to meet with an alien . . . and inquire as to his or her right to be or remain in the United States.”
Soliz called the Trump administration’s proposed immigration policies “unAmerican.”
“What he wants to do is separate families,” he said.
Soliz sent a letter on Tuesday to Ricardo Wong, director of the Chicago Field Office for ICE, calling for Gomez Garcia’s release and asking for a meeting.
Landaverde said he’s been notified of two other cases in which ICE agents have apprehended undocumented immigrants at the Skokie courthouse, both of whom are also currently held at the Kenosha detention facility.
“It’s not fair for our families who have done nothing wrong to this country, to have this happen to our family like this,” Maria Garcia said.