Neighbors plea for release of local resident from ICE detention

For the second time in a month, a Wimberley area family is fundraising to help get a relative out of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement custody (ICE).

Francisco, a relative of Wimberley resident Maria Garcia, holds a sign in support for her release from ICE custody.

While there is still a ways to go for supporters of Maria Garcia, who has been detained at the South Texas Detention Center since Feb. 26, they ultimately hope to get the mother of two children and 10-year Wimberley resident out on bond.

However, Mike Sullivan, a longtime Wimberley resident who attended a fundraiser in support of Garcia Monday, said what transpired from a family altercation might have gone too far.

“I’m not happy with how the Hays County Sheriff’s Office releases these folks to ICE. I think it’s unfortunate,” Sullivan said. “It’s supposedly the law, but there are other counties and cities where this protocol isn’t followed like it is here.”

According to Garcia’s family members, troubles began Feb. 11 when Garcia confronted her sister, whom she learned had an affair with her husband. At some point during the confrontation, Garcia allegedly struck her sister. However, the full extent of the alleged assault is unknown.

Amelia Gayosso, a Wimberley resident for 20 years and a friend of Garcia, said Garcia “collaborated with everyone” and gave her side of the story. However, both Garcia and Gayosso felt it was “awkward” to go before a judge on Feb. 24.

Gayosso said when Garcia complied and went before the judge she discovered there was a warrant for her arrest. Garcia was informed she should turn herself in.

Garcia was booked into the Hays County Jail Feb. 24 for assault family violence, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

Alma, a relative of Garcia’s who asked not to use her last name, said the family was told on Feb. 24 they could pay a fine and Garcia would be released.

“When we went to pay the fine, the person in charge said, ‘Oh, no. She’s not going to get out because of ICE and it’s in their hands,” Alma said. “No one told us. She couldn’t give us a call or anything or allow us to talk to her anymore.”

Since then, Alma, Gayosso, Sullivan and many others began fighting to get Garcia out of custody.

For Sullivan, the case was the second he and members of Wimberley Indivisible, a Democratic advocacy group, have taken up. In January, Victor Avedano-Ramirez, a Wimberley resident and an undocumented person, was arrested for two outstanding misdemeanor warrants; Avedano was later placed into an ICE detention facility before he was released on bond.

Sullivan said Wimberley Indivisible is reaching out to Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin) and Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) to get assistance getting Garcia out of custody. They’ve also asked for help from Rep. Beto O’Rourke as well.

Wimberley Indivisible and Garcia’s family and friends have also organized petitions for her release. That includes gathering more than 100 signatures from supporters so far.

Longtime Wimberley resident Mary Gilroy said she and others are trying to humanize those who might be in Garcia’s situation.

“These are people who have lived here for 10 to 20 years. This is their home. There is no other home for them to go to,” Gilroy said. 

Alma, who is a child of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, said what happened to Garcia increases her level of concern. It also bolsters her desire to oppose anti-immigration legislation.

“I cannot imagine that she would do something like that, but that’s nothing compared to what other people do. Not saying other people need to be there (in ICE detention) or anything,” Alma said. “But it was just anger. I think she realized she didn’t have to do that.”

Hays County Sheriff’s office spokesperson said the office followed its own protocol in such cases. However, ICE determines if a detainer should be issued.

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