One envelope holds her fate. Is she getting deported today?


Maria Garcia Juarez wandered around the international arrivals area at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Friday, frantically looking for a government official who held a sheet of paper with her fate written on it.

As she scurried from one Delta Air Lines security employee to the next, asking if anyone had seen agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Juarez looked like a woman tortured by twin emotions: the hope of staying in the United States to help her husband survive a stem cell transplant and care for their toddler son, and the fear of being deported from her family and the only country she’s known since she was eight months-old.

More on this story

Bridge Magazine teamed with DPTV Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit to tell the story of Maria Garcia Juarez’s impending deportation to Mexico. Bridge and DPTV, part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, will provide continuing coverage of her saga in the weeks ahead.


Juarez was born in the Mexico and for years has faced deportation for stealing two cars as a juvenile while growing up in gang-filled Salinas, California. She’s now 23, lives in Detroit and is among an increasing number of undocumented immigrants in Michigan facing deportation since Donald Trump was elected president amid promises to remove “bad hombres,” or undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes in the U.S.

Juarez filed several appeals based on special circumstances in her drama-filled immigration case, including having an American husband who’s battling cancer.

She was at the airport early Friday because she was scheduled to be deported to Mexico. She had booked a flight for that morning, but hoped she would be able to stay because of an appeal she’d filed the day before.

An immigration agent held the results of the appeal. But Juarez had no idea what the agent would look like or who to look for.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said, standing in the middle of a crowd of early-morning commuters.

Seconds later, a tall man wearing a backpack and navy blue polo shirt that concealed a bulge on his right hip approached Juarez and her small entourage of relatives.

The strap that held the badge around his neck read “ICE.”  He escorted her to the ticket counter.

Panic and tears flashed across Juarez’s eyes at the sight of the ticket counter. Grabbing her forehead, she explained to the ICE agent that she was looking for the decision documentation on her appeal.

maria security

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office denied Maria Garcia Juarez’s request to remain in the U.S. while her application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is considered. She was deported on May 26 due to being labeled a gang member for stealing two cars as a youth in California. The deportation effectively closed her DACA application. (Bridge photos courtesy Detroit Public Television)

A man stepped forward wearing a camouflage baseball cap, jeans and a black hoodie. He’d been waiting at least a half hour before Juarez’s arrival. He pulled a sheet of paper out of a manila envelope and handed it over.

Juarez’s five relatives, including husband, Erick Orozco, gathered around it.

Juarez read the paper silently and nodded. Marisela Lopez, Juarez’s mother-in-law, yelped, asking in a flurry of Spanish what was going on.

Juarez, eyes pooling with tears, let the paper fall into her mother-in-law’s anxious hands.

Juarez’s last request to remain in America was denied, the document read.

This is what it looks like to get deported.

The strain of hope

Immigration officials told Juarez this day was coming in June 2016.

Juarez was brought illegally to the United States by her mother when she was an infant. In 2011, she led police on a high-speed chase in stolen car in California and was sent to a detention center in Virginia to face deportation based on her juvenile record.  She came to Michigan in 2012, on her 18th birthday, to live with relatives who hired a lawyer to fight her deportation.

With an unshakeable hope that the immigration officials would use their discretion to allow her to stay in America, she filed appeal after appeal. She asked for political amnesty, but was denied last year. The attorney who filed that case was sentenced to prison earlier this month for bribing immigration officials to benefit other clients.

In January, shortly after Juarez’s husband was stricken with a second bout of leukemia, she appealed to stay in America because her removal would cause a hardship for her spouse, who is an American citizen.

She argued that she is no longer the teen who was hooked on meth and stole cars. After moving to Detroit, Juarez said she got clean, earned a diploma, took college courses and worked a job as an administrative assistant in a chiropractor’s office.

Even though she is married to a U.S. citizen, she was not eligible to apply for permanent residency while in the U.S. because she had entered the country without a visa.

In April, ICE told her she had to leave by the end of May and locked a tether on her ankle to keep track of her.

Then with only days until deportation, she found and hired a new lawyer, Brad Thomson, owner of the Immigration Law firm in Ann Arbor.

The day before she was scheduled to be deported, she and Thomson went to ICE to request an emergency delay on her removal while she applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It allows undocumented immigrants who are brought to America as children protection from removal for a renewable period of time.

None of her handful of prior lawyers had suggested she apply for DACA because they were skeptical that she would get it due to her juvenile record and having been labeled  - wrongly, she says - a gang member.

Maria hugs her husband

Maria hugs her husband

However, Thomson said the law would allow immigration officials the discretion to grant her DACA status because her juvenile record does not automatically mean she must be removed.

She had nothing to lose by filing the applications, and months or maybe even a lifetime in America to gain, Thomson said.

The appeal was enough to send Juarez to her deportation date at the airport with a nervous hope heavy in her chest.

Juarez knew she was pinning her hopes against a harsh reality: ICE may not consider Juarez to be a threat to U.S. security, however, under the Trump Administration, ICE is no longer making nuanced decisions about the removal of undocumented immigrants based on the relative seriousness of their crimes.

The law often allows immigration officials to use their discretion to determine who should be removed, but in today’s political climate there’s little room for discretion, Thomson and other immigration lawyers said.

Deportations in Michigan and Ohio, the areas served by the Detroit-based ICE office, are on track to exceed last year’s numbers. From Oct. 1 to April 8, 1,475 immigrants were deported, including 759 with criminal records.

In the prior year, 2,056 people were deported including 1,331 criminals. Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., about 126,000 live in Michigan, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration initiative.

Thomson said he’s seen the rate of deportations increase in recent months and the new administration’s policy, he said, does not take into account the impact deportations have on families.

Instead, Thomson said it is politically expedient now to crack down on all undocumented immigrants, especially those who come from the other side of the border where Trump wants to build a wall between Mexico and America.

“It sells to the general population,”  Thomson said.

When Maria got on the plane Friday, she was barred from applying to enter the United States for 10 years because she had been in the country undocumented for more than a year past her 18th birthday.

Her best hope of returning would be to file for a waiver - a process that could take anywhere from months to years. And even that process would lead officials back to her juvenile case, Thomson said.

Her more imminent problem is that she is foreign to Mexico and could be preyed upon by gangs or thieves who would assume she is an American with money, Thomson said.

Leaving America, home

Juarez said her hope to stay in America haunted her the past few weeks.

She hoped to stay at least until her husband has his stem cell transplant, which is unscheduled but could be this year.

On the day before she faced deportation, Juarez found out from doctors that her 18-month-old son, David, has a speech delay that will require therapy. A chance to stay would be a chance to hear him speak his first words, she hoped.

And her hope was contagious.

The family gathered at Juarez’s sister’s house the day before deportation. They ate posole and talked until the wee hours of the morning before heading out to the airport. Juarez left her son at home with her brother’s fiance.

When they arrived at the airport, even her relatives – her husband, mother-in-law, a sister, a brother, and a brother-in-law – huddled around the ICE document still hoping it would grant her permission to stay.

Their hope persisted even though her other two appeals were denied and President Trump has repeatedly stated that undocumented immigrants should return to Mexico.

Lopez, Juarez’s mother-in-law, stared at the denial letter after the ICE agents escorted Juarez away.

Numb with disbelief, she said she was seeing the words, but having a hard time processing their import.

“I can’t believe,” Lopez said, her words cut off by sobs. “I just can’t believe it.”

After Juarez hugged each relative - her husband twice – the ICE agents escorted her through airport security where she was allowed to cut to the front of the line where dozens waited to go through metal detectors.

Every few steps, she glanced back at her family, which craned their necks to see her through the crowd from the other side.

Her face appeared to grow pinker from crying harder with every step.

Juarez had only a carry-on duffel bag and a purse, not the volume of luggage of a person expecting to leave for good.

Two days ago, she had talked to an uncle who was supposed to pick her up when she landed in Mexico, to take her to his home outside of Guadalajara.

Erick Orozco, her husband, said few words during the whole exchange.

When would he be well enough to go visit?

How will she fare in Mexico?

How will he fare without her?

“I don’t know. It’s been hard,” he said. “I mean, you have hope.”

maria and her mom

Maria Garcia Juarez, 23, of Detroit, hugs her mother-in-law, Marisela Lopez, after being told her appeal to remain in the United States was denied. (L-R) Her sister, Jocelyne Garcia, husband Erick Orozco, and an immigration official look on.

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Tue, 05/30/2017 - 9:30am

Her staying in the US illegally is not right when viewed from one who is trying to get in legally. She can return to her homeland and get in the legal line to re-enter, just like everyone else.

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 1:13pm

I agree with Rich. I think Ms. Dawsey has hyped this story enough. Let's learn about other stories of more interest.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 9:33am

"Juarez knew she was pinning her hopes against a harsh reality: ICE may not not consider Juarez to be a threat to U.S. security, however, under the Trump Administration, ICE is no longer making nuanced decisions about the removal of undocumented immigrants based on the relative seriousness of their crimes.

The law often allows immigration officials to use their discretion to determine who should be removed, but in today’s political climate there’s little room for discretion, Thomson and other immigration lawyers said. "

I would HIGHLY advise people like Mr. Thompson to either pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV once in a while.

What happened in Manchester just last week alone should clearly demonstrate the naiveté of his "nuanced decision" argument.

Those "little things" which some people would like nothing better than to sweep under the rug have a nasty tendency to grow into something far more serious.

Steve Williams
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 9:55am

A few years ago she stole two cars, as an illegal alien. She did a few years in juvenile detention until she was 18 and then was released. Why wasn't she deported then? I can't imagine going to any other country without a passport, stealing cars while high on drugs with a known gang member, getting caught, and then not getting jailed and/or deported. This is a story of government malfeasance.

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 8:23pm

I would wager there are many things you are incapable of imagining.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 12:32am

You are right of course. Why wasn't she deported when she got caught stealing the cars? Because Obama knew today was coming. He wanted to pin the bad job of cleaning up our country on a Republican. This woman and all the others getting deported NOW are just pawns for Obama and the Democrats. They are being used, and most of them don't even realize it.

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 9:57am

Heart-rending. From the article, it appears that she has been on notice since the summer of 2016 about deportation because of being in the U.S. illegally and because of criminal conduct. Is this the typical case?

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 10:00am

As far as I understand We're a nation of laws without laws you have Anarchy. Her parents brought her here illegally and they are here illegally. By my understanding of the American legal code there actually is no Birthright citizenship. They should all go back to their home country.

John Q. Public
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 7:42pm

Oh, Scott, you're just adorable!
We're only a nation of laws until some rich guy breaks one. Then, we're a nation of men--and campaign contributions. Just ask Alan Gocha. Or maybe David Schostak.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 12:35am

Scott - I totally agree with you. Good post.

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 11:02am

She is a criminal. She broke our immigration laws and she stole. Bye-Bye

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 3:44pm

Seriously, if you guys don't know or haven't been following the whole story, just shut your ignorant mouths! How many "citizens" are allowed to stay in the U.S when they've committed harsher crimes, things that end with people's lives or destroy them and years later they're still in the same bs. Collecting unemployment, state help, etc.. while theirs Hispanics, like Juarez working their asses off every single day to earn a decent living! You guys disgust me! Let's hope the tables never turn.

Michigan Observer
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 4:52pm

This is a difficult case, and there are no doubt thousands of them, but where do you draw the line? This situation flows from a bad decision made in 1965, when we emphasized the reunification of families rather than welcoming well-educated, highly skilled immigrants. No doubt it sprang from humanitarian motives, a desire to help people. But it was not wise policy. Allowing large numbers of poorly educated, unskilled immigrants put downward pressure on the wages of our own unskilled workers. And the introduction of large numbers of people strained cultural tolerance. William Galston of the Brookings Institution, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, "According to a recent survey" that "68% of the white working class think that the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity and that the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influences." Had the share of foreign born residents not grown so large, we could have avoided the current unfortunate backlash which is creating so many stories like Maria's.

As Mr. Galston said, "America’s continuing failure to reform its immigration policy has poisoned our politics, and long-established policies require updating to meet the needs of today’s economy and society."

He also said, "Nearly a decade ago I participated in a bipartisan commission on immigration reform. Our principal recommendation was to cut back family-reunification visas in favor of an emphasis on individuals with higher education or advanced technical skills. We also advocated enhanced temporary-worker programs coupled with rigorously enforced protections for wages and working conditions."

Mary Topps
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 5:20pm

We have to do better because we the people of the United States are better than this. For those that think otherwise you are heartless. This is her home she came here as a baby not of her choosing. My heart aches for her, sad situation from a idiot y'all worship as your God, guess what his day is coming!

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 7:58am

Mary's reaction is a great example of why legal policy should be based on logic, reason and concrete facts not on emotional reactions to isolated cases. If every law is held against some isolated heart renting story the entire legal system slips down the proverbial slippery slope taking our entire economy with it.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 11:58am

Did you read the whole article? She is a drug addict and a car thief. She also hung out with gang members. How on earth do you think it is appropriate to ignore those crimes in addition to her other crimes: entering the US illegally, working without authorization, etc. Under a three strikes law, she should face mandatory life in prison because she is a CRIMINAL.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 3:14pm

I agree!

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 9:40am

She committed those crimes as a juvenile. I'm not excusing her juvenile behavior. She should have been punished as a juvenile for the things she did as a juvenile. However, I didn't read anywhere in the article where she has done anything criminal as an adult. She didn't willingly come to the US illegally. Her mother brought her here as an infant. She is being punished unjustly.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 6:51am

To say she is is being punished unjustly is completely illogical. She is being punished mainly because she committed pretty serious crimes. Multiple. To say sh echoed stay because others have done worse is also not logical. Those people should get kicked out too.

I always do the "out-the-shoe-on -the-other-foot" test. pretend its me going to a foreign country illegally. You would think I would be on my best behavior trying to not get caught right? You would think my parents would keep me on a short leash and make me study hard since i would be in a tenuous situation and should want to maximize my situation. But instead, I run around with gang members, smoke meth and steal a car, get caught and do it again. Hmmmm....what would I expect? I think too many people are in this country and knew they could get away with this behavior for too long and now they whine an complain when there is a consequence. Stop making excuses for these people, and lets focus on getting well behaved immigrants their Daca and other forms of legal status. Good behavior needs to be rewarded.

Jerome Bigge
Tue, 05/30/2017 - 11:07pm

This is just terrible!

Olivia Bruce
Wed, 05/31/2017 - 3:12pm

President Trump is not responsible for her "high speed chase in a stolen car", she is. That was a crime, and it doesn't matter what her age, a high speed chase puts many innocents in harms way. She's lucy she didn't hurt someone other than herself and now her family. Since she was here illegally, the least she should have done for herself and this country, is to obey the law!!! I feel for her, but she can't expect to come to this country and act like a gang banger! We have too many criminals born in this country as it is, we do not need to take other countries criminals in.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 4:28pm

Ive read better illegal immigrant sob stories, this one just doesnt move me but hey another one bits the dust and that always good.

Christina Reardon
Thu, 06/01/2017 - 9:24am

This is a SAD waste of ICE resources. She has improved her life. Needs help from immigration to get processed as spouse. Pray her husband survives, she manages well in new location, child adjusts well and Mom can come home eventually and pursue citizenship. Long road ahead but focus on future, continue making good choices. Friends wl get you home.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 6:56am

So, on principle, just let all the badly behaving undocumented criminals stay. Because its a tearjerker story? I call BS on this whole attitude. As a society, when you say that criminal behavior is OK (obviously the message many are living by), then you are enabling and encouraging.....wait for it....CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR! No! deport criminals without remorse! If were going to keep any, they must be the proven non-criminals! Duh!

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 10:26am

Why isn't every one of her entire "illegal alien " family being deported ? Did they not all break the law? Didn't at some point since arriving here "illegally"work somewhere? Did she or any other family member pay their required taxes like the we "citizens" must pay? How much welfare did she (and her family) collect directly or indirectly from we citizens? Does she or her family have health insurance for the medical attention their family needs? Why aren't the deported people being charged for the plane ride to their "home" country? Why is this article so poorly written with so many unanswered questions? Typical bleeding heart, left wing, fake news reporting The Bridge is noted for.

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 12:41am

Good post, Bob!!

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 5:36pm

This is absolutely horrific.

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 7:40pm

Has anyone heard from this gal and how she is doing?

Maria Garcia Juarez
Sat, 07/08/2017 - 11:16am

Well as i was looking back and reading all the comments on my story and i felt like i had to share evryone is entitled to their own opinion and i respect that. But i would like to clear a few doubts some people have. First of all i was brought in as a baby i did not chose to come into this country it was not by choice. I had a very harsh childhood growing up without my mother in a drug infested home...bouncing from house to house. I got involved with the wrong crowd and i made a mistake. By far that is no dam excuse for what i did but i did pay for what i did. I served my time rehabilitated and moved out of that enviroment. I was released on my 18th birthday in 2012. And no they could not deport me because i was basically an abandoned underage child at that point i was a ward of the state. I was relased out in Michigan when i immediately applied to be here legally. I was able to obtain my work permit so i worked LEGALLY! I payed my taxes just like everyone else. And no i did not use welfare or ask for any form of help from the government because if you all would have a little more knowledge you would all know illegal immigrants can not get any help from the government so you guys are all misinformed there. It is citizens who can use and also abuse the system so stop blaming illegal immigrants for that. And even when i was incarcertad it was also not free. They charged me per day! And just recently i payed off all my debt including restitution. I made a mistake as a teen because i did not have proper guidance something you would all not understand. How many of you ever made a mistake as a teenager.? All of you! So stop judging me. I have worked legally abided by the law never got into trouble again! I married my husband and he is a United States citizen and no he does not get help from the government! He worked very hard in hard labor to obtain his own medical insurance. He also went to school and is pursuing his degree! Even with his illness he still manages to find a way to make things work. Where as many of you you guys get a little back ache and are asking for medical restrictions. My husband works very dam hard and his illness has not broke him down. He is a very strong person. So now let me tell you i am in Mexico and i am doing all i can to stay strong. My son and husband are over there and i am seperated from them. What did the U.S gain from that.. absolutely nothing! But i will be back... LEGALLY! And i will continue to fight because i am a fighter and i will not let anyones opinions break me! I know who i am and i know what ive done and i will continue to move forward. Before you all start pointing fingers take a great look in thr mirror. We are all the same... we are all human and we all make mistakes. So thank you all for ur opinions. Unfortunately, they aren't so accurate. And i refuse to sit here and argue with u all it is aboslutely pointless. You all have a blessed day!

Jill Snyder
Tue, 10/03/2017 - 10:31pm

This is a wonderful response to a slew of heartlessness and judgement, that you shouldn’t have to be subjected to. I wish you and your family the very best. I’m sorry on behalf of our country for our ignorant mistakes and horrible mistakes.