It was a day like another day. Before the sun rose over the Rincon Mountains, Jesús Ramón González headed off to his construction job. He left his three children, sister and parents sleeping in the home they share in South Tucson.
That was Sept. 30. The family hasn’t seen him since.
González is in a Florence detention facility for undocumented immigrants. He faces possible deportation.
“He is our support. He is a good father to his family,” said González’s father, Mario González.
The González family saga is a continuing, all-too-common disruption in the lives and livelihoods of Latinos in Tucson. Thousands of families here, in Phoenix and across the country are being torn apart by immigration policies that allow local police to stop motorists for minor infractions and then question them about their legal status.
A Tucson police officer stopped González because his truck did not have mud flaps. After checking González’s identity, the officer found he was driving with a suspended license and that he had an arrest warrant for domestic violence. While González did not dispute his suspended license, he told the officer — correctly — he had no warrant against him, his family says.
González was taken to the Pima County jail. Checking his legal status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement put a hold on him. More than a week later it was discovered that, in fact, there was no warrant for his arrest. Regardless, ICE took him to a private prison where he awaits a possible deportation hearing, his father said during a press conference last Tuesday at Southside Presbyterian.
At the González home, sadness and uncertainty fills the family’s days and nights.
The children — 12-year-old Jesús, his brother Angel, who is 11, and their five-year-old sister, Jelisa — are confused and depressed over their father’s absence. He would take them to the park or to events at Santa Cruz Catholic School, where the three children are enrolled. And, yes, the children are U.S. citizens.
“He does good things for us,” Jesús told me after the press conference at Southside, dressed in his red and blue school uniform. “We miss him.”
The children are more quiet at home since their father was taken away, said their tía, Dora González , who works at a Family Dollar store. “They go into their room and don’t come out,” she said.
Compounding González’s problem is that he spent more than two years in state prison on a drug charge and was deported, said his family. Life is messy, and there are no easy answers.
His family said that since González returned home after being deported to Mexico, he has changed in positive ways. He stayed off drugs. He worked hard. He devoted himself to his children and family, said his father.
“He has been a good son and father. He deserves a second chance,” said González’s father.
You don’t have to remind the González family that their son did wrong the first time. They know it. However, he is striving hard to made good after his first deportation.
But now he will not have the opportunity to care for his family because González’s Chevy truck didn’t have mud flaps, and he didn’t have a valid license. For that, a working and loving father, brother and son is taken away, at financial cost to taxpayers who are on the hook to pay to process him through the legal system, feed him in prison and possibly send him away to, where? His family is here.
“All of this because the police confused him with someone else,” said the elder González, a custodian at Pio Decimo, a school and community center in Barrio Santa Rosa, south of downtown, not far from the González home. And, yes, the elder González is a U.S. citizen, in case you need to know.
The family has been in contact with González by phone. Neither he nor they know what will happen to him.
The family depends on the 27-year-old Jesús González. His earnings helped with the family’s finances. His father is scheduled to have surgery on his arthritic knee soon. The family depended on González to help keep the family financially afloat.
But that, and much more, is uncertain as long as he is detained. The family doesn’t want to consider the thought of his deportation to a country he does not know.
This is the life that too many families in Tucson’s barrios live.