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Lawful permanent resident freed nearly three weeks after arrest

Jose Garcia was arrested by ICE and imprisoned for 19 days despite being a permanent legal resident.(Video by Robert Gourley / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly three weeks after immigration agents arrested a lawful permanent resident outside his Arleta home, his case has been closed and he was released from custody Friday night.

Jose Luis Garcia’s case gained national attention after he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 10 during a three-day operation targeting public safety threats in the L.A. area. The 62-year-old has been a lawful permanent resident since 1988 and the last conviction on his record was a misdemeanor domestic violence charge from 2001.

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Garcia’s immigration lawyer, Mackenzie Mackins, spoke with the prosecutor, before the case went before a judge on Friday. On Friday afternoon, Mackins said, “we won and he will be released without bond” and his case is now closed.

Jose Garcia speaks to the media after his release.
Jose Garcia speaks to the media after his release. (Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)

“I do think the government in this case was aware of the outpouring of community support and they were aware of the media attention, and so I definitely think that helped,” Mackins said. “I will say that this is rare to happen, as far as completing the case on the first court date at the initial hearing. It’s extraordinary, it does not happen.”

When ICE arrested Garcia, the agency said databases revealed Garcia “has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States.”

The agency did not specify the convictions, but a search of court records pulled up the 2001 conviction, as well as a 1987 conviction for violating a protective order. In the domestic violence case, Garcia was sentenced to 25 days in jail and three years’ probation.

Garcia came to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Michoacan when he was 13 and worked in the fields of Northern California. He eventually bought a home in Arleta, where he lived with his wife, their two children and a granddaughter.

In an interview after he was released from the Theo Lacy Facility, Garcia said he knew there was a 50/50 chance that he would either stay or be deported.

If he had been deported, he said, he would have wanted to die.

“Thank God it turned out the other way, thanks to the judge,” Garcia said. “I will continue to do the right things with my family and I will become a U.S. citizen in no time.”

He also expressed gratitude toward his daughter, Natalie Garcia, who fought to get him freed.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Natalie Garcia said. “I’m so thankful and I’m so relieved. My father didn’t belong there.”

A week after his release, Jose Garcia watches fireworks from his rooftop in Arleta on July 4, 2018.
A week after his release, Jose Garcia watches fireworks from his rooftop in Arleta on July 4, 2018. (Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)

Even though her father’s case has been resolved, “the fight’s not over,” she said.

“This is happening to many people all around and they don’t have a voice.… I want to be a supportive voice for them and advocate for them and so does my father,” Natalie Garcia said. “I don’t want grandfathers like my father in detention when they’re not supposed to be and criminals out in the street.”

Jose Luis Garcia had not tried to become a naturalized citizen because of the financial cost but is planning to do so as soon as possible.

“While he was still in shackles and a jumpsuit in the court, I told him, ‘Next step is to naturalize,’” Mackins said. “He said that’s his No. 1 priority, beyond hugging his granddaughter and returning home.”

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A week after his release, Jose Garcia plays with his granddaughters at his home in Arleta.
A week after his release, Jose Garcia plays with his granddaughters at his home in Arleta. (Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Garcia plays with his granddaughters at his home in Arleta.
Jose Garcia plays with his granddaughters at his home in Arleta. (Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)

11 p.m.: This article was updated with comments by Garcia after he was released from detention.

10:30 p.m.: This article was updated with details that Jose Luis Garcia being released.

This article was originally published at 6:45 p.m.

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