A Father Of 4 Was Just Deported. Now, Complete Strangers Are Raising Money For His Family.

"This is exactly the kind of immigrant we want in this country."

The story of Jesus Lara Lopez, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States for 16 years, has captured the attention of many in the state of Ohio, as well as others around the country and the world, who are outraged over the news that he has been deported back to Mexico.

According to ABC News, Lopez is a 37-year-old father of four who has worked various jobs in the United States, most recently a graveyard shift packing products for Pepperidge Farm, where he had a valid work permit. He has paid taxes, and has never been charged with a crime or been on food stamps. All of his children are American citizens.

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"The irony here is, this is exactly the kind of immigrant we want in this country," Lopez's attorney David Leopold told local news station News 5 Cleveland.

According to Cleveland.com, in 2008, police tipped Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that Lopez was undocumented, but he was allowed to stay in the country and work, even through a 2011 deportation order. ABC News reports that, according to Leopold, Lopez was informed during a check-in with immigration officials in March that he was being deported "under an illegal immigration crackdown."

On Tuesday morning, Lopez was filmed saying a tearful goodbye to his children at the Cleveland airport before boarding a plane to Mexico. It's a heartbreaking glimpse at the frequently distressing reality of deportation.

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration instructed immigration authorities in 2010 to "focus on violent criminals and those posing national security threats." In contrast, an executive order signed by Trump in January used "sweeping language" which broadened the groups of immigrants prioritized for deportation. The publication reports that many immigrants have been arrested without criminal convictions.

Khaalid Walls, ICE's Northeast communications director, told ABC News that "ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal."

However, John Sandweg, former Acting Director of ICE and former Acting General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security, argued in a statement that the deportation of immigrants such as Lopez is "an incredible waste of ICE resources."

"Our limited enforcement resources should be focused first on finding criminals and public safety threats not arresting and deporting non-criminals, like Jesus Lara Lopez, who has lived here for years, dutifully paid his taxes, and is the primary caregiver to four U.S. citizen children," Sandweg said. "The Administration's focus on the low hanging fruit of the enforcement system only allows the bad guys to remain at large, weakening our public safety."

Lopez has received support from more than 34,000 people who signed an online petition to allow him to stay in the United States, as well as from Sen. Sherrod Brown. Lopez's lawyer, David Leopold, reportedly filed a final appeal last Friday, but received no response from ICE.

Some of Lopez's supporters were present at the airport to protest the deportation. Among them was Janet Garrett, who has run twice against Republican Congressman Jim Jordan and plans to run again in 2018. According to Cleveland.com, Garrett called the situation "a human tragedy."

The tragic experience has motivated at least one of Lopez's children to fight for change. According to a report from News 5 Cleveland, his oldest son told Leopold that he "has ambitions to become an immigration lawyer and represent people like his father."

A GoFundMe page has been started by immigration reform group America's Voice to raise money for Lopez's family to pay their mortgage. Over $12,000 has been raised so far.

"I met Lara & his family, wish they were my neighbors," donor Scott McFadden wrote on the page. "The gov't not only failed this father, but all the fathers in the USA."

Cover image Shutterstock / a katz


(H/T: Fusion)

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