GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- In July, 47 people boarded a bus at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan heading for the Mexican Consulate in Detroit for Mexican passports. Because of a mishap, three of them never made it and were deported.
The bus driver, who was hired for the trip and not an employee of the center, took a wrong turn and the bus ended up at the Canadian border.
A majority of those people were released, but three men were jailed and later deported.
The controversy around this incident continues to divide the Hispanic community in West Michigan and Monday, protesters lined the streets outside the Hispanic Center.
“It’s really sad, really, really painful,” Jovita Vicario said after having her husband deported.
Both she and her husband were here illegally. Jovita says she spent $10,000 in legal fees and now she’s left to raise and support their children alone. She and other people at the protest claim the center should pay the families who had members deported during the trip.
There were also supporters of the center, saying it’s the only place in West Michigan they can go for help.
In a statement the Hispanic Center says the incident “continues to be very difficult for all families involved, as well as staff and board.”
They continue on to say they disagree that the center is at fault or that it’s response to the situation has been inadequate.
We’re told each of the three families of the deported men received $100 from the center, but there is still a rift in the community.
The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan says they are open to listening to grievances of those affected by the July 25 bus trip and that board members have set aside time to meet with anyone who wants to address the incident.