ROMULUS (WWJ) - The fight to stop a Detroit man from being deported ended Thursday in a terminal at Metro Airport.
Wiping away tears, Alvaro Lopez's two daughters watched as their father was led by ICE officers through security to board a flight back to Mexico.
"It's just heartbreaking," said Adolfo Villereal, who was among family members and other supporters carrying signs with the message: "Stop separating families."
Before leaving, Lopez signed over custody of the two girls, ages 9 and 10, to Villereal. The girls are American citizens.
"I mean, we are going to fight to see if we can bring him back legally, the right way," Villereal told WWJ's Vickie Thomas. "It's gonna take years, and he's going to be over there, his girls are going to be over here."
Although he's been living in the country illegally as an undocumented immigrant, supporters say Lopez "has broken no laws while he's lived in the U.S." Without him, they say, the two little girls he has raised alone will become virtual orphans.
Villereal is among those pushing for a better system.
"Separating a dad from his girls is just heartless — but they don't care," he said. "I hope it opens their eyes to see what they're doing. I mean, separating families is not the right thing."
Despite illegal immigration from Mexico being down nationwide, deportations of Mexican immigrants reached a record high in 2013 of 314,904, up from 169,031 in 2005, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.
As immigration remains a highly debated issue among presidential candidates, President Obama has been pushing a plan that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented but otherwise law-abiding immigrants.
Meantime, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has been criticized for his use of the term "anchor babies" and Donald Trump has been asked by his own party to tone down his comments on immigration issues.
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