Arleta Father, Legal Resident Since 1980s, Released After ICE Arrested Him for 2001 Offense

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Jose Luis Garcia is greeted by family after being released from ICE custody on June 29, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

Jose Luis Garcia is greeted by family after being released from ICE custody on June 29, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

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An Arleta father granted legal status in the 1980s was released on Friday after he was arrested by immigration officials earlier this month for a 2001 offense.

Jose Luis Garcia, 62, had a bond hearing scheduled in downtown Los Angeles that would have determined his release while his deportation case proceeded, his lawyer told the Los Angeles Daily News. However, his attorney later said the court fast-tracked the process, with a judge ruling that he could continue living in the U.S. as a lawful resident.

He was released Friday night and was surrounded by family members. Upon his release, Garcia spoke about the dehumanizing experience while in custody.

“I'm just a number, they don't even call you by name, they call you by number," Garcia said. "It’s just a horrible thing in there, they treat you like animals. Like street dogs that nobody wants."

"It's a good thing to be out," he added.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had Garcia in custody since agents detained him the morning of June 10.

“I heard my dad screaming out my name through my window," Natalie Garcia told KTLA two days after the arrest. "I looked out my window and he was in handcuffs in front of our house by eight officers.”

The agents said they had a warrant from a 2001 domestic violence dispute, Natalie Garcia said. Records show her father pleaded no contests to the offense.

Jose Luis Garcia completed court-mandated classes at the time and today remained married to his wife, according to his family.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed the man's arrest, saying his "past criminal convictions" made him eligible to be removed from the country.

He came from Mexico some 50 years ago and received legal status during the Reagan administration, his family said. He's worked several jobs as the family's sole provider, including driving for Uber.

Supporters, including his family, rallied outside the court house before the hearing.

"They’re targeting easy targets like my father, who’s paid his taxes since the 1970s, who’s been in this country for 50 years, who has three jobs, who’s a homeowner," his daughter Natalie Garcia said. "They have all his information available. They’re picking up somebody who doesn’t belong there, instead of digging up these criminals they say they’re really picking up."

Following the judge's decision, Natalie Garcia told KTLA she's been the happiest she's ever been.

"This should not be happening to any family... Everything I went through for the last month, it was well worth all my fight and my efforts," she said tearfully.

Jose Luis Garcia's attorney said if the judge had not expedited the process, it would have taken him three to four years to have a deportation hearing due to the number of immigration cases being processed.

KTLA's Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this story. 

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