As the United States’ immigration policies came to a head, Vancouver’s Ramon Flores-Garcia sat in a detention center — 1,600 miles away in New Mexico — on the last leg of a six-month stint in custody with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, waiting to be deported.
His family says he is now back in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s the longest he’s been away from his family, and they have no idea when they will see him again.
Flores, 43, was separated, unexpectedly, from his wife of 14 years and seven children, ranging in age from grade school to young adulthood.
“My dad has done nothing wrong. He pays taxes, works hard. We are just like other families, struggling,” said his daughter, 20-year-old Leslie Flores. “It’s ridiculous to take out the (immigrants) who are actually helping America. They don’t care about the families they have here, and they don’t care about separating them.”
Ramon Flores — who has lived in the U.S. for about 20 years — was detained by ICE agents while working in Everett on Valentine’s Day. He was stopped a few blocks away from the Motel 6 where he had been staying. His family was expecting him home that evening for dinner.
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Instead, his wife, Enedis, 51, received his devastating call from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Feeling powerless, she wept.
Enedis Flores says her husband is a good man. He has no criminal history, operated his own merchandise distribution business — selling Mexican goods — provided for his family and paid his taxes.
“He’s been here for so long, and now they decide to take him?” Leslie Flores translated for her mother, who is Cuban-American. “He was trying to do the best he can.”
‘No legal basis’
The family doesn’t know why ICE agents targeted Ramon Flores but suspect a competing business may have reported him.
However, The Phoenix New Times first reported on Wednesday that at least two Motel 6 locations in Arizona were giving ICE information that led to guests being detained and deported. And a Mesa, Ariz., immigration attorney, Juan Rocha, said that an employee at a Motel 6 in Washington told him of the same practice here, according to The New York Times.
Rocha’s office told The Columbian they did not know which location the Washington Motel 6 employee was calling about. The employee wished to remain anonymous.
Following the New Times’ story, Motel 6 released a statement on social media saying the practice was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”
“When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued,” the statement read.
After coming under fire, Motel 6 apologized and said it would be reviewing its current practices. In the meantime, it instructed its 1,400 locations nationwide not to provide daily guest lists to ICE.
When asked if Ramon Flores was reported by the Motel 6 he was staying at, ICE declined to disclose how it received its information, citing “operational security” reasons.
“The agency receives viable enforcement tips from a host of sources, including other law enforcement agencies, relevant databases, crime victims and the general public via the agency’s tip line and online tip form,” Lori K. Haley, an ICE spokeswoman for the Western Region, wrote in an email.