After a last-ditch appeal to keep him in the country failed Wednesday, Jacobo Gabriel-Tomas is on his way to Guatemala, a country he has not set foot in for 25 years, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota said.
Gabriel-Tomas is a husband, father of four U.S. citizens, homeowner, taxpayer and a loved and respected resident of Worthington in southern Minnesota. The city’s mayor, Republican state representative and several members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation fought to keep him from being deported.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) denied a stay of deportation to Gabriel-Tomas on Sept. 25, but his attorney, along with U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tim Walz sought a review from the acting director of ICE.
That review was denied Wednesday.
“We finally heard back today that they would not be exercising any discretion,” said John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center.
Keller was clearly mourning Wednesday night when he said Gabriel-Tomas “really has left now.”
Gabriel-Tomas was allowed to drive but must check in with immigration officials and report that he is in Guatemala by a certain date. Keller didn’t want to say exactly when Gabriel-Tomas left or where he is on his journey because of fears for his safety.
Gabriel-Tomas’ wife and four children will stay in Minnesota for now.
“He’s got kids, they’re all in school still, Guatemala is a very frightening place, so they really didn’t have a choice,” Keller said.
“I think the hardest day to day thing is that he was the primary breadwinner. I don’t know how the family goes on financially or emotionally.”
Gabriel-Tomas was 16 when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in 1993 and asked for asylum, citing civil unrest in Guatemala. By the time his application and later an appeal were denied in 2002, he and his wife had two children and a third on the way.
He ignored an order to leave. He was convicted of misdemeanor identity theft and forgery after he was found working with another person’s Social Security number. A 2013 traffic stop put him back on immigration authorities’ radar.
He was prepared to leave, then the Obama administration announced its decision to focus deportation efforts on felons, recent border crossers and national security threats. That changed under the Trump administration.
“This guy has been here 25 years,” Keller said. “He came as a kid. Two misdemeanor convictions in 25 years. He’s just a person the entire community loved. He also was exactly what many people imagine as a good family man, involved with his community, hard worker, taxpayer.
Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252