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Immigration

Owner of a popular Houston taco truck faces deportation

Armando García Méndez, better known as Piro, was working on one of his taco trucks when he was arrested by immigration agents in early February. He’s lived in the United States for more than 20 years.
10 Mar 2017 – 5:01 PM EST

HOUSTON, Texas - A well-known Guatemalan taco truck owner in Houston was detained a month ago and faces a deportation order.

Relatives, friends, acquaintances and even clients of Armando García Méndez, better known as Piro, are using social media to ask immigration authorities for his release.

Gregory Palmore, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman in Houston, confirmed to Univision that Garcia Méndez was detained February 8 under an existing deportation order.

Piro, 40, tried to enter the United States without documents in September 1994 from his native Guatemala, but was arrested and deported.

The Guatemalan had left his country to avoid being recruited by the armed forces in the midst of a civil war, according to a report by National Public Radio (NPR).

After being deported, he crossed the border again and began a new life in Houston. He worked for several years as a cook and then started his own business aboard a taco truck.

For more than two decades he worked as an undocumented immigrant in Houston without incident.

On the morning of Feb. 8, when he took one of his trucks to serve breakfast, four agents wearing bulletproof vests bearing the 'ICE Police' sign rushed out of a vehicle, handcuffed him and took him away, according to NPR.

In addition to the deportation order contained in his record, Garcia Méndez was convicted in December 2002 on a charge of assault that caused bodily injury, according to Palmore.

An acquaintance of the Piro family has created a GoFundMe to help them financially, since their income comes from the taco truck, which has been out of circulation since the arrest. The fundraiser will also aim to help the family pay legal expenses.

The fundraising goal was $2,500. It’s already received over $9,000.

Many people have not only donated money but also left messages of support, telling of their appreciation for Piro.

"I have known Piro and his wife Rosie for many years. They are honest and hard-working people that are well loved by the community. It's up to us to help set Piro free!” wrote Layne Sullivan.

Another woman, identified as Dorothy Nelson, left this message when donating: "This is a horrific situation. Trump is twisting America into a warped Nazi state. #Resist.”

Another person, who commented anonymously, wrote that Piro is a good man who has a wonderful family, works very hard and should not be deported. "Been in the United States for over 20 years . He has done an American dream starting his own taco business . He is now separated from his children. He may loose [sic] everything he worked so hard for in the good USA."

In early March, another undocumented father and Houston resident was arrested by ICE and deported to El Salvador. Jose Escobar, 31, came to live in the United States at the age of 15 and was granted temporary protection status (TPS). In 2006, he was stripped of his TPS benefit by mistake and a judge ordered his deportation.

He remained in the U.S. and was arrested in 2011, but was released under 'prosecutorial discretion' agreement and had to appear every year before immigration authorities. In his last appearance he was detained. A week later he was deported.

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