Deportation officers had arrived at a residence on March 13 that they believed belonged to a previously removed Mexican citizen, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley said in a statement late Wednesday. A man “matching the target’s description” left the residence and got into a car.
When agents stopped the car and tried to contact the driver, the driver sped off, Haley said. Agents later came across the vehicle, which had struck a utility pole and overturned, and called local authorities.
Santos Hilario Garcia and his wife, Marcelina Garcia Perfecto, both died.
Though Garcia matched the description of the arrest target, he was not the same individual, according to ICE.
When asked for the physical description of the arrest target, the agency declined to provide anything further, stating that that would go into law enforcement tactics, techniques and procedures.
Leydy Rangel, a communications specialist with the United Farm Workers Foundation, said ICE needs to provide answers about how they the agents came to follow the couple’s vehicle.
“What is the reason for ICE stopping these people,” she said. “Is it just because they matched the description, which is what, a brown, farm working family? We’re hoping to get a clearer sense of that. What’s the practice they’re using to detain random people?”
Garcia, who was convicted in 2014 of driving under the influence, was voluntarily returned to Mexico three times between 2008 and 2017, Haley said. Garcia had no prior encounters with ICE.
The couple had been in the U.S. since 2003, and were in the country illegally, according to the United Farm Workers of America. The farmworkers leave behind six children — the oldest 18 and youngest 8.
The pair was originally from Guerrero, Mexico, and mainly spoke Mixtec, an indigenous language, Rangel said.
The GoFundMe campaign said that the couple had just dropped off their daughter at school and were on their way to look for work when the deportation officers attempted to stop them.
The couple’s 18-year-old daughter will be taking care of her younger siblings, along with her own son, according to the campaign. The parents’ remains will be sent back to Mexico for their final resting place, but the children will not be able to go.
“We’re not disclosing the legal status of the children,” Rangel said. “It is true that because of the [immigration] system they will not be able to see their parents put to rest.”