A son is raising money so that his mother and siblings can reunite with their father, who was arrested and deported from California to Mexico during an ICE operation called “Keep Safe” that ended up netting 232 people in Northern California over four days.
Jose Delapaz, 15, told KTVU on Saturday that his dad, Joaquin Delapaz Alvarez, was going to work at a construction site on Feb. 25 at a Circle K in Merced County's Atwater, and was arrested by ICE after he had bought his coffee. His father was with two other men, also headed to work about 8 a.m., when they were approached. Neither of the three men had warrants for their arrest, said Jose, a student at Atwater High School. ICE did not immediately respond for comment on this claim.
"My dad didn't have documents and they just took him," Jose said. His father came here 12 years ago without the proper paperwork, and Jose said and his mother are undocumented too. Two of his siblings were born in the United States.
His mother, Leticia, plans to meet their father in Tijuana, Mexico next month and the rest of the family will soon follow suit.
"I don't really want to go but I feel like it's the only option," Jose said. "I don't want to be living in a country where ICE could break down the door and take my mother away from me. I'm trying to stay calm for my mom. She is really stressed out. Seeing your mother so heartbroken is horrible."
Jose said his father has “never been in trouble with the law in his life,” and was taken because "he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. KTVU was not able to confirm or deny his claim about his father's criminal history.
The San Francisco Chronicle first identified Delapaz Alvarez and said he ended up signing a form expediting his removal from the country because ICE told him that if he didn’t, he could be detained for months.
Hamid Yazdan Panah, an attorney with the Northern California Rapid Response and Immigration Defense Network, told KTVU that he is very troubled by ICE conducting arrests based on skin color and starting an operation on a Sunday, when office buildings are closed and attorneys are not on hand. He said that many immigrants, even undocumented ones, have rights and attorneys are crucial in advising clients on what they are signing.
Delapaz Alvarez was with Miguel Botello, 37, who was not deported because he was able to show the ICE agents that he had a residency card. At first, the ICE agents laughed at Botello and insinuated to him that his paperwork must be fake. The two were with a third man, who was also deported, the Chronicle reported.
ICE does not specifically comment on individual cases, but has issued statements in the past denying that they conduct any sort of profiling based on ethnicity or religion. “Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false,” ICE said in a statement. ICE had arrest warrants for many of those detained in the operation. But as per the Trump administration’s order, people who are “noncriminals” will be arrested and deported too as "collateral" damage. During this latest operation, ICE said more than half of the people arrested were convicted criminals.
ICE director Thomas D. Homan has said the agency has no choice but to deport people who have no other criminal backgrounds, other than being in the United States without documentation, because sanctuary cities and states, like California, refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Homan got into a public feud with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf this week, who warned the public about the pending ICE operation, comparing her to a gang lookout who shouts "police," allowing the bad guys to get away.
Schaaf has staunchly defended her position and said she would go to jail to protect her city's sanctuary city status.
The family' is raising funds to live and return to Mexico on this GoFundMe page page.