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Cindy Garcia of Lincoln Park is readjusting to life as a family of four, but that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

Nearly two years after her family was torn apart when her husband was deported to Mexico for illegally coming to the United States as a child, the Garcias were reunited on Christmas Day. Jorge Garcia was granted two waivers, or pardons, that allowed him to return to the United States in late December.

Now home with their two teens, Cindy said it’s surreal to have her husband back.

“There’s more laughter in the house now, and there’s a lot more smiles,” Cindy said.

Cindy kept the news of Jorge’s return from their kids, Soleil, 17, and Jorge Jr., 14, until the three were at the airport on Christmas evening. She told them they were there to pick up an uncle. Instead, Jorge Jr. saw his dad.

“My little one was in tears,” Cindy said. “He said, ‘That’s my dad!’”

Sitting on the sofa in the living room of their bungalow on Thursday, Jorge, 41, smiled as he talked about everything he liked about being home. A picture of the entire family with Santa snapped at a local department store rested near the TV. By the fireplace was a large banner with an American flag background that read “Welcome home, Jorge.”

In Mexico, “I had my own room, and I had a bed and a dresser and a TV, but that was it,” said Jorge, who lived with an aunt outside Mexico City. “It didn’t feel like home.”

Jorge’s return caps a long, expensive and emotional journey for the Garcia family at a time when immigration has become a divisive issue in the country.

For years, they fought to keep Jorge in the country since he had no criminal record. A trial in immigration court failed. And even though Jorge came to the United States with his parents when he was 10, he was one year too old to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection.

After he was deported in January 2018, Jorge had a hearing with the American consulate in Juarez in February 2019 and applied for two waivers. Both waivers — one was for his unlawful presence in the United States and another as a provision to reapply after being deported — took 10 months to process before they were approved by the visa processing center.

On Wednesday, Jorge’s permanent resident card arrived in the mail. In three years, he’ll be able to begin the process to become an American citizen. 

“It feels really good,” said Jorge, who now plans to start looking for work.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who worked with the family and invited Cindy to be her guest at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018, said the holiday season was extra special this year because the Garcias were reunited. Still, Jorge’s absence is two years “they will never get back,” she said in a statement.

“This was a real-life symptom of a long-broken immigration system and inhumane immigration policies from the Trump administration,” she said.

“Now more than ever, we must not lose sight of who we are and the promise of America. It is time for Congress and the president to find the political will to do what is right, not what is convenient, and fulfill this nation’s promise to those who come here seeking a better life and those who call this nation home.”

Cindy said she routinely gets calls from other desperate families trying to find a way to bring home loved ones who’ve been deported or face deportation. She calls the current system “broken.”

“It needs to be fixed so people can have their pathway to citizenship and not have families broken up,” Cindy said.

For his part, Jorge wants his time away behind him. 

“Even though it’s my home country, it was hard,” he said. “It’s totally different.”

And even though her husband is now home, Cindy plans to keep advocating for families facing what her family faced. If anything, she said, she plans to advocate even more. 

“I know their pain,” Cindy said. “And I feel for them.

"Even though I’m happy, I’m still sad because not everyone got to spend time with their loved ones during Christmas or during New Year’s. It’s not easy going through this process.”

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

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