RACINE — Seventeen-year-old Lizbeth Fierro took a deep breath as she grabbed the microphone to give one the biggest speeches of her life — asking for her father, Ricardo Fierro, to come home.
As Lizbeth spoke, the emotion of her plea would cause her voice to quiver and hand to shake. On July 24, Ricardo Fierro was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers outside of his home in Racine and is currently being held at a detention facility in Dodge County.
“I’m here to advocate for my father currently being held in a detention center by ICE officials,” Lizbeth said on Tuesday to a group of about 80 people at Monument Square. “I’ve never done public speaking but, for the sake of my father, I have no choice but to speak for him as he’s spoken for me, my family and has been the voice of the community for years.”
With roughly one month before Lizbeth starts her senior year at Case High School, her father’s alma mater, she and her family are fighting to get Ricardo Fierro out of ICE custody.
“Without his constant advice about education, telling me I can be everything he can’t be, I would’ve never made it on to the honor roll,” Lizbeth said. “I’ve been out and about getting in contact with people who have known my dad for years, picking up letters for my dad, making sure to call people to come out and support, completing tasks for my family regarding my dad’s arrest, and overall not stopping because when your father is away from home, there is no telling if he’ll be back.”
Lizbeth paused for a moment to keep herself from crying.
Support from community
The arrest of Ricardo Fierro has galvanized many in the Racine community and has caused individuals such as Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave, Racine Mayor Cory Mason, state Rep. Greta Neubauer, Racine Unified School District Superintendent Eric Gallien and dozens more to write letters on behalf of Fierro.
Fierro is an active member of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, was part of the RUSD Middle School Transformation Committee last year and the Diversity and Equity Task Force for Unified in 2016, he advised former Mayor John Dickert on immigration issues, and was a president of the Milwaukee Council 347 of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Fierro has five children with U.S. citizenship and two step-children with U.S. citizenship. He is the self-employed CEO of Fierro Enterprise and, according to his LinkedIn page, has experience with nonprofit organizations, marketing and strategic planning.
From 2015-2016, Fieroo was the Racine regional director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin.
On Monday, Fierro’s attorney Kevin Layde filed a request for a stay of deportation, which included a package filled with information about his family, business ownership and dozens of letters of support for Fierro.
“Within the next several weeks we should have a decision from ICE, his package should be reviewed by a supervising ICE officer in Chicago in their Enforcement and Removal Operations Office,” Layde said. “It’s totally up to ICE based on all the circumstances, whether they want to grant this or not. And a stay of removal are supposed to be for the most extraordinary situations for the most extraordinary individuals.”
In 1995, when Fierro was 16, he came to the United States legally with his family, according to his friend Jamie Alverado, who spoke at the event on Tuesday.
“Even though the family overstayed their visas, they found it impossible to legalize their solution because the immigration system was prohibitive,” Alverado said.
According to ICE, Fierro was deported to Mexico in August 1997. His deportation came four months before Fierro turned 18 years old, according to court records containing his date of birth.
Julie Contreras, the chair of the Immigration Affairs Committee of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Fierro’s deportation is deeply upsettling.
“When I sat and heard the history of how his deportation occurred, saving his mentally ill brother ... bringing him back medication that they could not buy in the United States,” Contreras said. “And for this reason today my brother is sitting in a cell, shackled and chained, guilty of only being Mexican.”
Fierro returned to the United States sometime in 1998 after being deported.
In a statement to The Journal Times, Nicole Albercio, ICE spokesperson, confirmed Fierro-Garica, his formal name, was arrested outside his residence on July 24, and stated: “He is a previously removed (deported) illegal alien. Fierro-Garcia remains in ICE custody in Wisconsin pending his removal to Mexico.”
Fierro has been cited for driving without a license once in February of this year and once in 2015.
On the day her father was arrested, Lizbeth said she was at her grandmother’s house with her father. He then decided to go back to his house.
“ICE agents followed him from my grandmother’s house and then to his house and then detained him at his house,” Lizbeth said. “My stepmother gave us a call and said he had been detained.”
The past week, Lizbeth said, has been “crazy emotional,” with a lot of crying, sleepless nights and praying. She added the word of mouth quickly spread about the news of her father.
“We didn’t want it publicized for the first couple of days,” Lizbeth said. “Because we didn’t know what was going to happen … but then family members were calling us, they were saying ‘Oh, we just heard at church.’ It just spread so fast.”
Decision to come
The coming weeks will be critical to Fierro as ICE officials decide whether to grant him a stay of deportation.
Layde said the decision to grant the stay is at the discretion of the department, but he is hopeful for his client.
“I think that we have maybe a better chance than an Aaron Rodgers fourth- quarter Hail Mary, I think that he has a very compelling case,” Layde said. “The lack of a criminal history is huge.”
However, Layde said, when an individual has been arrested by ICE and they have been previously deported “it’s always challenging.”
President Donald Trump has been vocal about immigration, particularly advocating building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing border security.
Layde said under previous presidential administrations, Fierro likely would not have been targeted to be arrested.
“Under previous administrations there was a priority system for individuals who are public-safety threats, had links to terrorism, had multiple arrests and are recent immigration violators. Mr. Fierro-Garcia is none of those,” Layde said. “The enforcement priorities for ICE are far more aggressive than they were previously, in terms of arresting and detaining individuals.”
“We didn’t want it publicized for the first couple of days. Because we didn’t know what was going to happen … but then family members were calling us, they were saying ‘Oh, we just heard at church.’ It just spread so fast.” Lizbeth Fierro, daughter of Ricardo Fierro, who was recently detained by ICE