Stephanie Delgado-Garcia’s mother picked her up from Hillside High School earlier last month and said her father wouldn’t be coming home.
“My mom was like ‘Your dad isn’t going to come home anymore, they took him,’ and she started crying, and then I started crying,” Stephanie, 15, said. “Then I was just in shock.”
Stephanie’s father, Jose Delgado Arroyo of Durham, and his brother, Dario Delgado Arroyo of Wake County, went to a check-in appointment with federal immigration officials in Charlotte Nov. 17, when they were both detained.
On Thursday the men’s daughters Stephanie and Yhairi Delgado-Garcia, 14, sought to bring attention to their family’s situation. Stephanie organized an hours-long walk-out at Hillside High. Yhairi did the same at Garner High.
Then the teens, along with other family members and supporters, including advocacy group Alerta Migratoria, held a press conference outside U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s office in Durham. An aide told them the congressman is doing the best he can.
The family and Alerta Migratoria contend the brothers had inadequate legal representation and should be allowed to stay in the United States to continue providing for their nine children, including four with medical issues.
The brothers have been through the full legal process, said Bryan Cox, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They saw a federal immigration judge, were ordered removed and filed an appeal, which was denied, he said.
“They were taken into custody after the immigration courts denied their request for stay of removal,” Cox said. “So, at this point, there are no legal impediments to their removal.”
According to ICE’s website, the brothers were being held at Folkston ICE Processing Center in Folkston, Georgia on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, they had been moved to Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico.
Alerta Migratoria and the families are pushing for federal officials to take into account a pending legal request.
On Sept. 18, the brothers filed a motion to reopen the case with the Board of Immigration Appeals raising concerns about their previous legal representation. Alerta Migratoria shared complaints filed against two attorneys.
The brothers’ current legal team contend that an attorney retained around May 2006 didn’t fully argue the challenges the U.S. citizen children would face if their fathers were deported, said attorney Omar Bashi, who along with Nardine Mary Guirguis represent the brothers..
A second attorney didn’t catch the first attorney’s mistakes, Bashi said.
Both previous attorneys said they stand by their work.
The second attorney said people facing deportation sometimes allege misconduct because it is the only way, under certain legal circumstances, to reopen an immigration case. He also said the current attorneys may have more information than he had, or possibly that the circumstances have changed.
There are no public complaints or actions against the two original attorneys according to their respective state bars.
A motion asking the federal courts to stay current removal orders and to reopen the case was filed on Sept. 18. The Board of Immigration appeals denied the stay Nov. 17, but the motion to reopen the case is still pending, Bashi said.
Dario, 36, and Jose, 38, Delgado Arroyo fled Michoacán when they were 13 and 14, respectively, because of their father’s political beliefs, according to Alerta Migratoria.
It is unclear when the men first encountered the immigration system and under what circumstances. Bashi said they were put in removal proceedings in December 2004.
A criminal records search found two speeding tickets associated with the men.
Alerta Migratoria started advocating for the family after they reached out to the organization. Supporters question why federal officials would want to remove law-abiding, taxpaying residents and tear the families apart. In 2016, there were 240,255 ICE removals.
Dario Delgado Arroyo, who worked as an electrician, has four children, ages 14 to nearly 4. Eight year-old Dario has asthma and 3-year-old Luis has chronic asthma that requires medical treatment every two weeks, Yhaira said.
Jose Delgado Arroyo, who has owned his own landscaping firm for two years, has five children ages 15 to 5. Jose, 13, is losing his vision, and Anthony, 5, has reoccurring pneumonia and breathing and lungs issues, Stephanie said.
Stephanie and Yhairi said they don’t know how their families would survive if the primary providers were deported.
When the family sits down to eat, her siblings ask when their dad is coming home, Stephanie said.
“We just tell them he is going to come home soon,” Stephanie said.
Yhairi learned about her father’s detention after she came home and saw her mother crying at the kitchen table Nov. 17.
“I was just sad. I didn’t talk for two straight days to anyone,” she said. “I was just in shock. I didn’t feel like talking because if I talked about it, it would just bring me down more.”