OKLAHOMA CITY – A father of six was deported to Mexico, but his family said he was tricked by ICE agents into thinking he was safe.
Luis Plaza Moreno, an undocumented immigrant working in restaurants in the U.S. since 2002, was detained and deported suddenly, without warning Saturday.
His wife and children, the youngest struggling with autism, were left behind.
“He doesn’t deserve this. Why him?” said his oldest daughter, Ivon. “He did everything he could. I feel like he was tricked.”
In 2011, Plaza was pulled over on his way to work. His lawyer, Giovanni Perry, said icy conditions caused his car to be slipping on the road.
Plaza was arrested for driving without a license, but he was never charged. Perry said, instead, he was turned over to immigration.
“The only option the judge gave at the time was accept an order of removal and go talk to ICE so they can put a stay on the removal based on hardship,” Perry said.
She said ICE was going to deny the stay on the removal, but it was granted after the community, activist groups and politicians advocated on his behalf.
“Everyone knows my father as a hardworking, very, very hardworking man,” Ivon said. “He would always tell us put everything in God’s hands. He will help you out, mija.”
Before the stay of removal expired, Plaza and Perry went back to find out what to do to extend it. Perry said they were told he was okay.
“Officer Johnson said ‘You’re not a priority. We’re not looking for you. Quit showing up. I don’t want to hear about you anymore,'” Perry said.
They stayed away until last week.
Perry was told by another immigration officer, if he came in, he could be granted another order of supervision and get his work authorization extended.
“‘I just need to lay eyes on him, I’ll extend his order of supervision, he can get his work permit extended and everything’s fine,'” she recounted.
Ivon said her father was thrilled.
“He was like ‘Hey, will you take me to get my driver’s license again?’ We had so many plans,” Ivon said.
But, when Plaza and his son who drove him arrived, he was immediately taken into custody. He wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to his son.
An ICE spokesperson told News 4 he was taken into custody for failing to report to ICE after his original stay of removal expired, when his family and his lawyer insist they were told he was safe.
So, on Friday, Perry filed an application for a stay of removal.
“He should have remained in custody while the application for a stay was processed by a field director, but none of that happened,” Perry said.
Late Saturday night, Plaza was dropped off at a bus stop in Mexico with nothing but the clothes on his back.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Ivon said. “I’m still very angry. I’m sad. I don’t think my father deserves this.”
In a statement, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok told News 4 Plaza was in a detention center but his family confirmed he is in Mexico.
When asked about the circumstances of Plaza’s removal, Rusnok said in a statement:
“… as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
Now, his family is bent on bringing him back. They’ve set up a petition to support his return and are imploring anyone to reach out to field director Simona Flores, with whom the lies the decision on whether he can return.
“I beg the community to help us, support us,” Ivon said. “I understand there’s laws, but he’s no harm to this community. I’m begging everyone.”