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Undocumented Plant City Father Of Six To Be Deported

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
ICE during an arrest of 86 in North Texas and Oklahoma areas during 3-day operation targeting criminal aliens and immigration fugitives

A Plant City man who has spent two decades in the U.S. illegally is being deported.

Luis Felipe Blanco-Reyes, 41, lived with his pregnant wife and six children. He worked and is the sole provider for his family.

Although Blanco-Reyes had been granted a humanitarian stay in the past, immigration authorities told him he's got to go back to his native Mexico.

Rev. Andy Oliver from Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, who is an advocate for Blanco, said this decision would devastate the family.

“It’s hard enough going through middle school and high school. I mean, imagine having your father ripped away from you for no reason and not knowing if you’re going to see him again,” Oliver said. “They had 25 minutes to say goodbye to him yesterday, not knowing if they would ever see him again.”

Blanco-Reyes was deported in 1998, but he came back to the U.S., remaining off authorities' radar until a traffic offense four years ago.

With his wife and children by his side, he turned himself into the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Tampa on Tuesday.

After spending the night in the Pinellas County Jail, Blanco-Reyes was released Wednesday morning to ICE officials, where he remains in custody.

His children are U.S. citizens, and he and his wife, Lourdes Medrano, are expecting their seventh child, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Medrano, 30, is in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children who are brought to the U.S. illegally to remain here under certain conditions.

“All of them have dreams, and those dreams can be fulfilled with their dad at home, providing for them, loving them,” Oliver said.

The deportation comes as President Donald Trump’s administration fulfills a pledge to further accelerate deportations. Trump aims to dramatically reduce U.S. immigration overall.

According to the 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, deportations have increased 27 percent from the year before.

Last year, ICE conducted 143,470 overall arrests nationwide, which is the highest number of administrative arrests over the past three years, according to the agency.

Blanco-Reyes entered the country illegally in 1996, and on July 24, 1998, an immigration judge ordered him deported to Mexico, according to ICE spokeswoman Tamara Spice.

Spice said Blanco-Reyes re-entered the U.S. at an unknown date and most recently came to ICE’s attention after his arrest for a traffic violation in South Carolina in 2014.

Pamela Gomez, a community organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said what is happening to Blanco is happening to many other families across the country.

Gomez said many immigrants who are deported risk everything to return to the U.S. to be with their families.

“You would come back too, if if were the only way you could be with your family. If it means breaking the law, it means getting to them at any means necessary,” she said.