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Iowa Dreamer Killed in Mexico After Being Forced into Voluntary Deportation by ICE
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10 Jun 2018 11:30 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Badge (Image source: Public domain)


At least one DACA recipient's dreams have come to a startling end. Up against the wall, this 19-year-old Dreamer chose voluntary deportation with the hopes of re-entering the U.S. at a later point. But he found trouble back in a country he didn't even remember and was killed.


Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco was just three years old when he left Mexico and came to the United States with his mother. His father was already living in Des Moines, Iowa, so they joined him. Later, three more children were born in the U.S., making them citizens. 

Cano Pacheco was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status and employment authorization three years ago, reports Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Shawn Neudauer in a statement.


"He was really happy in Iowa. It was the only home he knew," said his mother who prefers not to give her name, as she's undocumented. "He loved school and loved soccer. On his days off from school he would work as a mechanic." 

But like many teenagers, he made some stupid mistakes and racked up a few misdemeanors. In April 2017 he was arrested for a misdemeanor drug charge and was convicted of another misdemeanor around the same time.


His DACA status was terminated, meaning there was a possibility of being deported, according to ICE. He was released from their custody and posted bond. While waiting for a hearing he was convicted of a DUI and another misdemeanor.  

Now with a one-year-old child, an attorney suggested Cano Pacheco take a voluntary departure. This means he wouldn't have the same penalties as being deported regularly. He would not be banned from returning to the US legally for a number of years like he would have been had he waited and risked being deported.


His request for voluntary departure was granted on April 10, and he was returned to the Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, on April 24. His mother reports he didn't want to leave but took his attorney's advice. They all feared he'd be killed if he went back to Mexico. 

He went to live in the north-central area of Mexico and was murdered in Zacatecas because "he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," according to a friend from Iowa, Juan Verduzco.


There aren't many details of his death. His mother only knows that he went to the store at 5 p.m. on a Friday and then went missing. He was found dead on May 18. A friend he was with was murdered as well. 

To make it so much worse, Cano Pacheco was buried in Mexico, in this country he barely knew. His family wasn't even able to attend.


"The entire family is devastated," said his mother. "I almost wanted to return to Mexico, but my other children don't have passports, and I would risk not being able to come back. We've never left the country before." 

There's also his girlfriend and one-year-old child left behind. His mother reports the girlfriend doesn't want the attention. "She's distraught and detached, doesn't want to be in the spotlight."


He had attended the Des Moines Public Schools.  The district's spokesman, Phil Roeder, reports that the city of Des Moines has felt grief and anger since Cano Pacheco's death.  

The school system educates students from more than 100 countries. "This is a tragic reminder the immigration policy is not limited to the halls of power in Washington D.C. but impacts lives from one end of the country to the other, including here in Iowa," he said.


"It is really hard for the mental health of a person to live every single day with the fear of not seeing their loved ones again because of deportation," reports Pastor Alejandro Alfaro Santiz, who held a memorial service for Cano Pacheco in Des Moines. 

"Could you even imagine every time you drop your kids at school that might be the last time you hug and kiss them?" he asked.


Knowing that her son had to leave his home because of Donald Trump's crackdown on immigration, Cano Pacheco's mother was asked what she would say to the president if she had a chance. 

"I'd tell him to stop what he's doing," she said. "To stop deporting people to Mexico. We don't have papers, but we work really hard to care for our families. If we get deported, our families have to fend for themselves.


"Yes, some people don't have papers, but if they get deported, they leave their families hungry. They are sometimes the sole breadwinners." 

There are a lot of "ifs" in this story, but mainly two. If Cano Pacheco wouldn't have committed a few minor crimes, he'd still be alive and living in the country he considered home. If Trump wouldn't have cracked Down on immigration, Cano Pacheco would still be living at home.


But the fact remains that if you're a citizen of the U.S. and you commit a few misdemeanors, you usually get a slap on the wrist. But if you weren't born here, you have to leave and can wind up somewhere you don't feel safe and ultimately aren't safe. 

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