PLANT CITY, Fla. - After living in Florida for nearly 20-years, a Plant City man is set to be deported back to Mexico. His partner and six children are now bracing to be torn apart.
For the Blanco family, spending time together matters more than ever. On January 30, dad, Luis has to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"At that appointment, they could detain him and send him to an immigration detention center," said Daniela Hogue, Immigration Attorney at Maney Gordon Zeller.
In 2014 Luis was picked up for a minor traffic violation in South Carolina. Instead of being deported, ICE officials granted him a humanitarian stay since he is the sole provider for his family.
The 41-year-old regularly checks in with ICE, and the status has allowed him to work legally. However, Luis recently learned his latest application was denied.
"There is no appeal from that and ICE is now seeking to deport him back to Mexico," Hogue said.
Luis entered the country illegally in 1999. He has lived in Plant City with partner Laura Medrano for nearly two decades.
The couple’s six children are United States citizens. Baby number seven is due in May, but Luis likely won't be here for the birth.
"If I’m deported my family is going to suffer a lot,” Luis said. “I don't know how they will live, I’m the only one that works."
It's a cloud of worry and pain that's consumed the whole family, wondering how to make ends meet if they are ripped apart and Luis is taken into federal custody.
"I'm worried about my education because I don't know if I’m going to have to step out to help my mom with bills because we're just three females who are like old enough to work,” 15-year-old Jennifer Blanco said.
Hogue claims situations like this are becoming a trend under President Donald Trump, who has said anyone in the county undocumented is considered a priority for deportation.
“People are afraid, people are afraid to go to work, to send their children to school,” she said. “It’s pushing a lot of people back into the shadows and creating this underground society, which is really not good for the community at large.”
For Luis, there is no clear path to citizenship since he’s been in the states illegally. Hogue explains he would have to leave the U.S. for 10-years before he can apply for a waiver to re-enter.
"Forgive me if I’ve offended this country,” said Luis. “I want them to forgive me, I did not come to hurt anyone, I simply came to work, to give my family and children a better life."
FOX 13 News reached out to the local ICE office about this case, but officials could not comment on such short notice.