Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was alerted to Lara Lopez's whereabouts in 2008, but he was not forced to leave immediately after. During Obama's presidency, ICE focused mainly on deporting people who had committed serious crimes, but the Trump administration has forced stricter regulations on all illegal immigrants in general.
"These are the darkest times in our nation," said David Leopold, Lara Lopez's attorney, at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport this morning. "I contacted the governor and Mike DeWine, but it did no good. This good man is being deported and I have to ask how this makes our country any safer."
Lara Lopez's wife, four children and a crowd of protesters (in support of their family) were present at the airport this morning. Some brought homemade signs, reading "Protect Immigrants in Ohio" and "Stop the Deportation of Lara Lopez."
Lara Lopez's family, community, attorney and America's Voice, an organization working to change and protect immigrants' rights, all fought against his being sent back to Mexico. But appeals to ICE, letters of support and a petition with around 35,000 signatures were ineffective.
America's Voice, notes on their website that Lara Lopez paid his taxes, never committed a crime and served as a valuable member of the Willard community. The organization compiled a number of letters supporting Lara Lopez; one, penned by neighbor Jennifer Fidler, attests that "It is apparent how much he loves his family, how hard he works, and how friendly and caring he is."
Mandy Polachek, assistant principal at Willard Elementary School, also spoke highly of the Lara Lopez family:
"These wonderful children obviously come from a very supportive home where Mom and Dad play an active role in raising and caring for the children. I personally believe it would be detrimental to these young children to lose their father to deportation. The Lara family is valuable to not only the Willard City Schools but also the City of Willard."
"My dad is a great dad," Lara's 14-year-old son, Eric, wrote on a GoFundMe page to help with the family's living expenses. "He adopted me, and he was always there for me, helping with my homework and making sure me and my brothers and sister had what we needed."
"We pleaded with the government and asked them to leave my dad alone, but they took him anyway," he added.
"I can't believe the people who run the government have no compassion at all," said Lynn Tramonte, director of America's Voice, at the airport. "His children, who are Americans, will have to go through life without a father."