Michael A. Cohen

The human cost of Trump’s immigration policy

On April 10, 2017, Nuns on the Bus, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), and other community members protested in Cincinnati against the deportation of Maribel Trujillo Diaz.
On April 10, 2017, Nuns on the Bus, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), and other community members protested in Cincinnati against the deportation of Maribel Trujillo Diaz. (Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Over the past year, the Trump administration has significantly increased deportations of undocumented immigrants. While immigration officials previously focused on the so-called “worst of the worst,” today any undocumented immigrant — even those with no criminal record or who came here as children — is at risk of being deported. Since Trump took office, the number of deportations away from the US border (euphemistically called “interior removals”) have jumped by nearly 40 percent. Here are just a few of the individuals who have been caught up in Trump’s dragnet.

Syed Ahmed Jamal, a college chemistry instructor in Lawrence, Kansas, was preparing to take his daughter to school earlier this month when ICE agents showed up at his house and took him into custody. Jamal, who is originally from Bangladesh, has lived in the United States for 30 years and has three children aged 14, 12, and 7. He has been the sole breadwinner for his family and has no criminal record. On Monday, he was put on a plane to Bangladesh, but in mid-air a judge stayed his deportation order and he is now in Hawaii.


Jorge Garcia arrived in the United States at age 10. He has lived in Michigan for 30 years, is married to an American citizen, and has two teenage children. He has no criminal record and spent more than $100,000 trying to gain legal status to stay in the United States. In December 2017, he was deported to Mexico. He told the Detroit Free Press in a recent interview, “Since I’ve got here, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. It’s like my body wants to rest, but I’m not able to with all this thought I’ve got on my mind and the stress . . . During the night, out of nowhere in my sleep, I start thinking about the whole situation and I lose my sleep.”

On April 3, Maribel Trujillo Diaz went to her local ICE office near Cincinnati for a routine appointment. Two days later, ICE agents arrested her. Trujillo has four children, all of whom are US citizens. Her husband has a medical condition that makes it hard to work, and her youngest daughter, who is three, has seizures. Sixteen days after being picked up, Trujillo was deported to Mexico.


Yancarlos Mendez is a trained caregiver for his fiancée Sandra’s six-year old son, Ricky Solis, who is paralyzed from the waist down. Mendez, who is 27 and worked as an auto mechanic, was also the sole breadwinner for his family. Earlier this week, Mendez, dressed in prison garb, married Sandra, in a rural Ohio prison. Ricky was not allowed to attend. Instead, he sat in a wheelchair, near a metal detector and ate potato chips. The man he calls “Dad” will be deported to the Dominican Republic, where he was born.

Jose Escobar, who is 31, married, and the father of two US born children, lived in Houston. Escobar came to the United States at the age of 15 and has no criminal record. In 2011, he was picked up by ICE, but was released after local media attention about his arrest. As part of an agreement allowing him to stay, Escobar was required to check-in annually with ICE agents. On February 22, 2017, he went to an ICE office in Houston and was arrested. Eight days later, he was deported to El Salvador.


Roberto Beristain came to the United States from Mexico in 1998. He is married, with four children. He worked as a cook at Eddie’s Steak Shed in Granger, Ind., and became the restaurant’s owner last year. He has no criminal record. Beristain’s wife voted for Donald Trump because she thought that he would only deport undocumented immigrants with criminal record. “I don’t think ICE is out there to detain anyone and break families, no,” she told a local TV station. In February 2017, Roberto Beristain was picked up by ICE agents and in April, deported to Mexico.

Dylan O’Riordan is 19. He arrived in the United States at age 12 and overstayed his 90-day visa. Last fall, O’Riordan was arrested for domestic assault and battery, though his girlfriend denied that he assaulted her. He was quickly released, but then immediately arrested by ICE agents. In December, he was married to Brenna, with whom he has an infant daughter named Delilah, in a jail chapel. Brenna is planning to move to Ireland so she can be with her husband.

These are just a few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stories of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and co-workers who have been deported in the past year since Trump became president. This is the country that America has become under Trump.


Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.