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Cleveland, OH – At the tail end of Father’s Day, the New York Times published a searing feature from Miriam Jordan regarding the immigration debate currently raging nationally and in small-town Ohio and one father – Jesus Lara Lopez – whose deportation battle has become a test case for the Trump Administration.
Jordan examines how the Huron County town of Willard, population 6,000, has benefited from seasonal workers and settled immigrants who work in factories and on farms, open businesses, and help sustain the local economy. She writes:
Ask where to find immigrants in Willard, and residents respond “in the muck,” the charcoal-black, organic-rich farmland that abuts the town.
Over the years, many Latin Americans have settled here, working year-round on the farms as well as at nurseries and factories.
Downtown Willard’s main artery, Myrtle Avenue, has enjoyed a renaissance thanks to Taco Rico and other Hispanic-owned businesses.
“We need to make them part of the fabric of Willard,” said City Manager Jim Ludban, who grew up here. He said he had been “100 percent” in favor of throwing a welcome-back party for the seasonal migrants.
Yet, as Jordan’s reporting makes clear, there are also tensions in town. Some residents question the role of immigrants, while employers fear an enforcement crackdown may undercut the workforce. And President Trump’s abrupt shift in deportation policy has thrown the lives of people like Jesus Lara – along with his wife and 4 U.S. citizen kids – into a tailspin.
For years, Lara has lived with a legal work permit and an Ohio driver’s license, and he has complied with yearly “check-in” appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a condition required by federal immigration authorities. This year, the Trump Administration decided to undo all of that progress and put Lara on the road to permanent separation from his family.
In January, after the Trump administration announced that no one in the country illegally was exempt from deportation, immigrants like Mr. Lara became vulnerable.
On March 28, when he arrived for his check-in with ICE in Cleveland, officials tethered an electronic tracking monitor to his ankle over objections from his lawyer, who argued that he was no flight risk.
When Mr. Lara raised his trousers to reveal the black, clunky device — he charges it every 12 hours — [his youngest child] Elsiy blurted out: “That’s a thing the police put. My Daddy isn’t a criminal!”
His application for a “stay of removal” included several letters of support, including one from an official at a center where he studied English, learned how to operate a forklift and enrolled in a machine workshop. Such efforts were “testimony of his great desire to better himself to be able to thrive in his community,” the letter said, aiming to prove “good moral character.”
David Leopold, Mr. Lara’s attorney and former AILA president, said:
It’s difficult to imagine any good that will come out of deporting Jesus Lara Lopez. He is a doting father who works hard to provide a safe and loving home for his four children. He is an honest, hard worker who dutifully pays his taxes. He is a model neighbor who contributes to his Willard, Ohio community. ICE has the legal authority to do the right thing and permit Jesus to remain at home with his family, and the community that values him, in Willard. Deporting Jesus Lara Lopez is wrong. It insults the legacy of America as a nation of immigrants. Jesus’ case screams out for Secretary Kelly, DHS, and ICE to show compassion and fairness, and apply common sense.
Lynn Tramonte, Director of Ohio’s Voice, said:
Jesus has been doing everything that the government asked him to do. He has been attending yearly ‘check-ins,’ with ICE, working hard and supporting his children. Last year, he and his wife bought a home. They contribute to Ohio both economically and through their community. Their children are born-and-raised Ohioans. It’s cruel and unjust for the government to change everything for the Lara family in a matter of months, banish Jesus from the United States, and leave four U.S. citizen children without the daily presence of a loving father. We can and must do better than this.
Read the entire New York Times piece here.