Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is whipping up anti-immigrant fervor with terms like "anchor baby," but Garden Grove resident Hector Flores' deportation last week fits nicely with the Obama administration's "felons, not families" spiel. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took the father of four into custody back in early March. After months of languishing in the GEO Group's Adelanto Detention Facility, la migra deported him back to Mexico last week, citing his criminal convictions.
But Flores wasn't even the man ICE agents sought, according to the family, when they came to his home. "I was sleeping in the living room when I heard banging on the door," Cassie Flores, Hector's 17-year-old daughter, remembers. The men identified themselves as Homeland Security and said they had a warrant out, but not for anyone bearing her father's name.
"They asked him for his immigration status, anyway," Cassie tells the Weekly. Her dad stepped outside of their home at the ICE agents' request. "When they brought him back inside, he was already in handcuffs." Hector's children clung to him saying their goodbyes, before an ICE agent separated them for good.
Since that morning, the family has been without their main breadwinner. "It's been hard, not just emotionally, but financially," Cassie says. "My older brother was getting ready to go to college but he wasn't able to because he had to get a second job to help my mom pay the rent and other bills."
For months, the Flores family struggled in limbo, awaiting Hector's fate. Last week, Cassie left messages with her dad's deportation officer ahead of a scheduled court day Friday, she says, to no avail. But on Wednesday she eventually found out that he was going to be bused back to Tijuana.
With the help of Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU) activists, the Flores family tried to halt the deportation. A flurry of phone calls from the community to ICE came so quickly that the office eventually stopped answering. But the effort failed. Once on the other side, Hector called his children Wednesday evening from Tijuana.
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested Mr. Flores-Perez during an enforcement operation in March and he was removed from the United States Aug. 26," writes ICE spokeswoman Lori K. Haley. "Department of Homeland Security databases indicate he has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1996 and has previously been deported six times, including the most recent removal earlier this month."
When President Barack Obama announced an executive order last November expanding temporary DACA deportation relief for "childhood arrivals" and eligible parents (DAPA), it never included immigrants like Hector. The Deporter-in-Chief uttered the catch phrase, "Felons, not families," when insisting la migra would prioritize actual security threats–both orders remain on hold after legal challenges. The Flores family doesn't deny his criminal record–including a DUI and domestic violence convictions–but claim that he took the rap for felony drug possession charges in 1997.
Hector is a changed man whose troubles are past, his children say. He spent his free time helping out Hector Jr., his youngest child at 14, with his soccer team and going to the beach to surf together.
"He isn't a felon," Cassie insists, "He's a family guy."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2