The six orphaned children of the undocumented immigrants killed while fleeing ICE agents in Delano March 13 have been dealt another blow, according to the United Farm Workers Foundation: the federal immigration enforcement agency has apprehended and deported their closest remaining family member.
Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained the children's uncle, Celestino Hilario Garcia, at his Delano apartment Wednesday, according to UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres.
Back in March, ICE agents, thinking they were tailing the very same uncle, gave chase when Santos Hilario Garcia and his wife, his only passenger, Marcelina Garcia Profecto, sped away.
Both farmworkers were killed when Garcia lost control of his car.
The couple left behind six children whose ages range from 8 to 18.
"Still grieving the tragic deaths of their farm worker parents ... the six children of Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia Porfecto were dealt a new blow when ICE agents deliberately picked up their closest remaining family member, their uncle Celestino Hilario Garcia, at the Delano apartment building where both families live," Torres said in a statement. "ICE agents specifically targeted Celestino, also a farm worker, who has now been deported to Mexico, leaving behind a wife and four young children."
ICE agency issued a statement Thursday stating Celestino was in the United States illegally and that he has since been sent to Mexico. It said U.S. authorities had allowed him to voluntarily return to Mexico seven times between 2002 and 2009.
"In April 2009, an immigration judge issued him a final order of removal, and ICE removed him to Mexico twice, once in April 2009 and again in May 2009. He has three criminal convictions for driving under the influence," ICE stated.
Torres accused ICE of callousness in the deportation of their uncle.
"ICE already contributed to the deaths of the parents of these six children who are now orphans," she said in a statement. "Can ICE be more callous in visiting even greater anguish upon this family that has already suffered so much? How much crueler can Donald Trump’s immigration policies become? How many more casualties can be produced by the Trump administration's targeting of hardworking immigrant farm workers who sacrifice to feed all Americans?"
The Delano Joint Unified School District, UFW Foundation, neighbors, friends and relatives have been supportive of the six children as they work through the loss of their parents, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez told The Californian in March.
On Thursday, UFW Foundation spokeswoman Leydy Rangel said the orphaned children have continued to live together in the same apartment complex as their uncle, but in a different unit. She added that the oldest of the six is trying to gain legal custody of her younger siblings.
Rangel said the uncle, a farm worker who picked grapes along with his wife, Lucy, had become "the closest thing that they saw as a father figure."