Members of a local family said they feel a combination of sadness, concern and hope in the wake of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detaining and deporting two brothers to their home country.
Jonathan Claros, 29, his sister Fatima Claros, 25, along with their parents are making efforts to assist the two youngest children, Diego Claros-Saravia and Lizandro Claros-Saravia, ages 19 and 22, in their adjustment to life back in El Salvador.
ICE deported Diego and Lizandro by plane Aug. 2, spokesperson Matthew Bourke said. ICE arrested them July 28. An immigration judge issued a final removal order to each of them Nov. 7, 2012. They were released pursuant to an order of supervision March 11, 2013. They received stays of removal May 13, 2013, but subsequent applications were denied. ICE in Baltimore ordered them each to buy a plane ticket to El Salvador last year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted the brothers at John F. Kennedy International Airport Sept. 20, 2009, when they were each “attempting to fraudulently use a Guatemalan passport and visa under a different identity.” Customs and Border Patrol then issued each of them a notice to appear in immigration court.
Jonathan Claros said the brothers will likely not return to the United States, but that his family is working with the brothers to plan the next steps for them in the country where they live. Lizandro and Diego told him on the phone Tuesday that they are trying out for a soccer team called C.D. Águila, in San Miguel.
"We're just trying to keep them busy, but our priority for now is to put them in the university where they can keep studying,” Jonathan said.
Although only Lizandro Claros-Saravia had been preparing to attend college on a scholarship at the time of the brothers’ arrest, both seek to attend university courses, Jonathan said. The brothers are searching for a university that offers courses taught in English.
Their family wants them to attend English courses "because they're going to have more opportunities to get a great job than right now,” Jonathan said Wednesday.
If they don’t find one, they might have to continue their search outside El Salvador, he added.
The primary emotion the remaining brother and sister both described was one of loss and heartbreak.
“We feel empty,” said Fatima Claros Aug. 3. “We’re not together anymore, and my heart is broken, and we need justice because this is unfair what the government is doing.”
Jonathan Claros, too, said he felt “empty” Tuesday. The deportation is changing their family — once unified, now separated.
“(It’s) not the same,” Jonathan Claros said. “My family is apart.”
Jonathan Claros said he, his siblings and his parents lived under one roof up until three years ago when Jonathan married. Since Aug. 2, the family has been divided between two separate countries, two family members unlikely to return to their residence in Germantown.
When Fatima visited them back on Aug. 1, she encouraged her brothers, saying they all would be together soon.
A couple of days later, Lizandro told the family he and Diego weren’t coming back.
“We received a call yesterday (Aug. 2) from my little brother calling my older brother Jonathan, and he just said he was, (asked my) brother please call my aunt, okay, (ask) my aunt to pick us up in the airport because we are leaving now,” Fatima Claros said Aug. 3. “And then we started crying because we can’t believe that it was happening.”
Their parents, their grandfather, Fatima’s baby and her fiancé were also present when Jonathan received the call. The sadness was overwhelming, Fatima said. One of the worst feelings for her was seeing her parents upset.
“I felt like, I felt like I was dying, and seeing my mom crying… my mom, seeing my dad. My dad is really strong and he was crying; it was really hard,” Fatima said.
The deportation affected non-immediate family members as well.
“Lizandro used to take care of my little cousin and, the little boy is broken right now, because he’s asking for Lizandro,” Fatima said, the day after the brothers traveled out of the country.
Fatima said she felt relieved when her family received a second call Aug. 2 that Lizandro and Diego met their aunts upon their arrival in El Salvador.
“Diego, my (older brother of the two), said they’re fine, they have a lot of family there, and he told me … ‘We’re fine here,’” Fatima Claros said. “I told them, ‘Just be patient,’ we’re fighting, we’re fighting for them.”
Jonathan said he continues to feel sad about what happened. He was not with Fatima when she visited them at a juvenile detention center Aug. 1.
"I did not have the opportunity to say to them good bye,” Jonathan said.
County Council Public Safety Committee member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said he opposed the brothers’ deportations and that he believed it will deter immigrant residents from contacting police in the future about crimes.
“The deportation of the Claros-Saravia brothers is a tragic situation and a waste of public resources,” Elrich said Monday. “Our tax dollars should not have been used to find these young people and send them away from our country, where they worked and studied and were a part of our community.’
He said deporting individuals could send the opposite message from what President Donald Trump intended.
“ICE’s action jeopardizes the trust that we rely on in working with the immigrant community,” Elrich said. “In fact, it actually helps ‘the bad guys,’ because it will likely make people more fearful of stepping forward to help those who work to make our community safer.”
Jonathan Claros said he hopes Lizandro and Diego can continue their education and continue to press for a good future.
"(I want them) to overcome whatever they are going through in this country, and I know what they ... what my country is right now, but they got to keep fighting for their education and a better future for them, because they have a lot of support from people that they love, and these people love them too,” Jonathan said.
Fatima said she misses seeing her brothers every day — during times such as Lizandro returning home from soccer practice and Diego arriving home from work. She will miss watching them each play with her baby.
She often watched movies with Diego while lying on his bed, and said he frequently ate oranges. Lizandro enjoyed eating at Chipotle.
“Lizandro? Oh my God, I miss him, I miss my little brother. He always went … when he used to go buy — he loves Chipotle. And he always likes to buy Chipotle,” Fatima said, her voice hoarse as she had become emotional. “He always asks (if they want to eat) Chipotle.”
Jonathan said he played with them every day and he misses that. After the deportation, each day when he visits his mother, she mentions wondering whether she should follow her sons. His father feels disappointed that the family was separated.
"It's hard when your parents suffer a lot, going through a lot of stuff,” Jonathan said.
In general, he wonders and sometimes worries about what the next day will bring.
“We're trying to have a better future but it feels like a movie because we're living day by day and you never know what's going to happen in the next day,” Jonathan said Wednesday.
Though Fatima and her family still feel sad, Fatima said she experienced peace Aug. 3, because she knew her brothers were free.
“We just, right now, uh, I’m feeling more calm, (knowing) my brothers are free,” She said. “They’re not in jail. They’re not in jail anymore. They’re free.”
“And they’re eating good food now,” she added, laughing. “Because my brother told me the food was really nasty, but now they’re eating good.”
She said she also found reassurance in the knowledge that Diego and Lizandro are keeping optimistic attitudes.
“They’re thinking positive; that’s good that they’re thinking positive,” she said.
Jonathan used the same word, positive, describing his family’s coping with the separation and with their concern for the two relocated brothers’ wellbeing.
“You got to keep positive,” he said. “They’re back in my country; they need food, they need money.”
The uncertainty of laws affecting immigration is causing stress for the family and many other immigrant families, Jonathan said.
"Every day, you're living in a country that, every day it's something new that you have to live with, and try to keep working hard and save money so that way if something happens to you, you can have something to start with in your country,” he said. "I think it's not just my family, everyone who doesn't have papers here feels the same way we feel right now."