Miami teen to ICE: I want my dad back

Authorities take father without criminal record after fender-bender crash


MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – When Raul Quiroga left his Miami-Dade home to go to work, it was a Monday morning like many others. He kissed his wife goodbye. He took his boys to school. The family never imagined they would have to spend this year's Father's Day without him. 

Last year, Quiroga's 16-year-old son remembers he and his 9-year-old brother decorated a large cardboard with pictures. They used glue and markers to let him know that they appreciate everything he has done for them. 

"I have always been with him on Father's Day. It hurts me that this year I am not going to be able to be there for him," Quiroga's teenage son said. "He is the type of father that many people would want to have. He works seven days a week to make sure we have what we need and still makes time to play soccer and spend time with us."

Quiroga's teenage son said his mom is a domestic worker and his dad was a construction worker. He was a 6-month-old baby when his parents brought him to the U.S. from Mendoza, Argentina, and he has never gone back. Except for his little brother, who was born in Miami, the family is undocumented.     

"My best friend's dad is serving time in prison for a felony. He gets to see his dad, but I haven't been able to see mine since ICE took him, because I am illegal," Quiroga's son said. "I have known I don't have the same rights and freedoms that citizens do. I have known that since seventh grade."

All it took for Quiroga to end up behind bars after living in the U.S. for 15 years was a fender-bender crash May 22. He told his wife that he was on his way to a construction site when a woman in front of him stopped abruptly.  

Quiroga was driving a pickup truck on a ramp off Interstate 95 in North Miami Beach near Northeast 14th Avenue. No one was injured, but the woman with the battered bumper called 911. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper arrived to ask Quiroga for his driver's license and registration.  

The pickup truck he was driving was registered to someone else. But he was among the millions of illegal immigrants nationwide driving regularly without a license. Florida is not among the 12 states that enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to get a driver's license.  

"I found out after school. My mom called me sobbing. At first, I thought my dad was in the hospital, because of his gallbladder problem, but then mom said he got detained," Quiroga's son said. "He is an honest person. I never thought something like that would happen to us. It really hurt us."  

How the fender-bender crash in Miami-Dade attracted the attention of immigration authorities remains uncertain. FHP has previously teamed up with ICE and other federal agencies to work on drug-related operations in Florida under mutual aid agreements.  

ICE has also been expanding the 287(g) program, which trains police officers and deputies on how to question suspects about their immigration status. Immigrant advocacy groups argue President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration is isolating undocumented families and filling them with fear. 

The Quiroga family was able to come to the U.S. with a visa waiver program that expired. An immigration attorney told them the father of two will likely be deported to Argentina. If he is deported, he won't be allowed to return to the U.S. for about a decade.  

"It's hard to think about school and about going to college and my future. My dad has told me to stay positive," Quiroga's son said. "I have to be the man of the house and help my mom and my little brother. I don't cry. I am angry. It's all so unfair."  

Quiroga will spend Father's Day without his two sons at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach. 

Quiroga doesn't have a right to a public defender. The family has to come up with money to pay for an attorney.  A local immigration activist set up a GoFundMe account to help the family. The hope is to help them stay afloat. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said ICE made the arrest, but ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said it was the Border Patrol that arrested Quiroga, who was being held at an ICE facility.

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