One of the most horrific immigration policies of the Trump administration was the practice of mass raids on work sites that indiscriminately arrested and expelled hundreds of undocumented immigrants at a time. The policy began during the Bush and Obama administrations, but reached an ugly nadir under Trump with a 2019 raid of Mississippi poultry plants that led to the arrest of 680 undocumented immigrants. The practice was so widely condemned that the Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it would be put to a halt.
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas deserves credit for Tuesday’s memo ending the raids. Mayorkas recognizes that the workplace raids “misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.” The memo, though, raises the question: What about the thousands who have suffered during the raids under past administrations? Tuesday’s memo is a good start, but it’s nowhere near enough to address past harm. The ongoing saga of Maria Domingo-Garcia illustrates that perfectly.
It turns out that as of last month, Domingo-Garcia—one of the most well-known targets of the 2019 Mississippi poultry raids as a mother of three American children whose youngest was still breastfeeding at the time of the raid—was back in the United States. She is in ICE custody and facing deportation again. This time, though, Domingo-Garcia’s attorney is begging Mayorkas and the Biden administration to help rectify the damage that Trump did, particularly given Tuesday’s stand against workplace raids like the one that ensnared Domingo-Garcia and her family.
Domingo-Garcia’s story went viral shortly after ICE raided her poultry plant, when it was reported that her breastfeeding 4-month-old daughter was struggling to learn to bottle-feed. Ultimately, the Trump administration showed her no mercy: She was deported in December 2019, just before the start of the pandemic. As reported in Slate last year, the logistical challenges of the pandemic, including the Trump administration’s border closure, prevented her from seeing her children in the months afterward.
More than two years later, she still hasn’t seen them. Finally, after living in Mexico for nearly two years, last month she decided to return to the United States to seek asylum. Her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonado, says that while she was living in Mexico, Domingo-Garcia was robbed in the street and “just became more terrified of continuing to live there, she became more depressed not having her kids with her.”
On Sept. 9, she arrived at the Brownsville Port of Entry. Ybarra Maldonado says, as is typical in such cases, he requested to be present for her credible fear interview last month. Instead of the standard practice of including him via a call, though, the asylum officer conducted the interview without Domingo-Garcia’s attorney present. The asylum officer then made the determination that Domingo-Garcia did not have credible fear and was not a candidate for asylum.
“She just said that the interview was extremely rough, she didn’t even know that it was the asylum interview, and she felt like she didn’t have a chance to tell her story,” Ybarra Maldonado said in an interview on Tuesday. “They’re talking about the raids again and how horrible they were during the Trump administration, but this administration continues to have someone detained who first came into their crosshairs in one of these unjust family separation raids.”
Last week, Domingo-Garcia was moved from Brownsville to the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana, which is much closer to where her family still lives. She is currently being held in quarantine there, but once her quarantine is over, Ybarra Maldonado is hopeful that she will finally have a chance to see her children again face to face. For Domingo-Garcia, everything now rides on her review hearing with an immigration judge to determine if the original credible fear ruling will stand, or if she’ll be able to enter the asylum process and finally return to her family.
Ybarra Maldonado says Domingo-Garcia’s case is an opportunity for the Biden administration to finally put its money where its mouth is in terms of righting the wrongs of the Trump administration.
“This is a new administration now, and they talk about correcting the wrongs that were done of the Trump administration. Here’s a perfect opportunity for them to do it,” he told me. “We’ve seen a lot of talk on the campaign trail; we haven’t seen a lot of action. Here’s an opportunity for the Biden administration to take a real action instead of just sending memos as they did today.”