U.S. reps visit deported Lincoln Park man’s wife

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

On a typical Sunday afternoon, Cindy Garcia would have been making pasta salad for the eight-family potluck everybody calls Funday. But nothing has been typical since her husband was deported to Mexico, so instead she had two U.S. Congress members in her living room in Lincoln Park.

“I didn’t think it was going to get this big,” she said Sunday. “Sometimes, I’m a little bit overwhelmed.”

She is determined, though, and her husband Jorge still is marooned in a small mountain village outside Mexico City, so she will talk to anyone who will listen — in this case, the House minority whip and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.

Garcia and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, sat in wooden chairs carried from the kitchen, hers in front of a fish tank and his in front of a fireplace with religious icons on the mantel. He was attentive, occasionally interjecting a question: “How’d the lawyer screw up?”

Dingell stayed mostly out of the picture, answering the door or putting an arm around 12-year-old Jorge Jr. when he dropped his face into his hands at one point and briefly wept.

A few reporters, a documentary filmmaker and two TV photographers took notes or shot video while a mostly white pit bull named Chito, stymied by a plastic gate, barked and whimpered from the top of the basement steps.

Jorge Sr., 39, has become the face of the not-quite-Dreamers, the people brought here illegally as children who are too old to be covered by DACA. Cindy, 45, has become the voice.

Immigration officials “just thought I was an ordinary person,” she told Hoyer. “I’d go home and cry and that would be the end of it.”

That was Jan. 15, when Jorge, who had lived in the U.S. for three trouble-free decades, flew off to join an aunt he barely knows in a house with no hot water in a town with only intermittent access to the internet. On Jan. 30, Cindy Garcia was Dingell’s guest at the State of the Union address, where she met Hoyer.

He’s in the Midwest on a economy-based listening tour he calls Make It in America: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toledo, Indianapolis. When he realized he had a free night here, Dingell said, he asked her to set up a visit with a family that knew these days were coming but had no idea how they would unspool.

Take Valentine’s Day, said the Garcias’ 15-year-old daughter Soleil,, a high school freshman. They went to a Mexican restaurant in Wyandotte, Camino Real, and pulled out three chairs instead of four. A waitress they like started to cry, and then so did everyone else, and so much for the holiday.

Cindy Garcia used to put seat belts into F-150s at a Ford plant in Dearborn. Chronic pain forced a medical retirement four years ago, and she’s forbidden to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds. Milk jugs and sacks of potatoes were Jorge’s job, she said, and where the heck is the washer fluid reservoir on her Chevy Traverse, and why didn’t anyone else learn how to use the snowblower?

Jorge is barred from the U.S. for at least 10 years. He never had a path to citizenship before, and he has no guarantees now.

Hoyer referenced a survey that said 87 percent of Americans oppose deporting people who grew up here to countries they might not even remember. He’s been frustrated for years as an immigration bill passes in the Senate but doesn’t get brought up in the House, or an amendment that needs 60 votes in the Senate receives only 54.

“I am convinced,” he said, “that an overwhelming majority of Americans would say, ‘Bring Jorge home.’ And home is here in Michigan.”

Alongside him, in her orange #TeamGarcia T-shirt, Cindy Garcia nodded.

She is willing to make noise for as long as it takes — but she would rather make pasta salad.


Twitter: @nealrubin_dn