Community rallies as farmer fights deportation

PANTON — More than 110 people have donated money to a GoFundMe campaign in support of Juan De La Cruz, a Panton resident of Mexican birth, farm owner, and father of six who, according to the campaign website, was told that he will be deported on July 6.
The fundraising webpage was created by Ferrisburgh resident Kim Haigis on June 12. The money donated, more than $8,000 as of Wednesday morning, will be used to help pay his family’s legal fees.
According to the description written by Haigis on the GoFundMe page, when De La Cruz went to his annual check-in with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly referred to as ICE, he was told that he would be deported immediately. However, his deportation timeline was eventually extended.
“The authorities reconsidered and are allowing him 30 days to get his affairs in order because of his financial responsibilities and young children,” Haigis wrote on the page. “Juan and his family don’t have much time. They need help hiring lawyers to counsel them and plead his case to the immigration authorities.”
De La Cruz’s wife of eight years, Kirsten, is a U.S. citizen. They have two U.S.-born children together and four stepchildren. The family owns a house and a small farm in Panton called De La Cruz Farm.
In Haigis’ plea to community members, she reminded them of the fresh eggs, free range chicken meat, and lamb that the farm provides, and that people commonly stop at the solar farm in Vergennes to see their lambs. She noted that De La Cruz has been an active member of the community.
 “Juan has a work authorization card and he has a full-time job. He has been employed at local businesses for the last 11 years. Juan’s salary supplies (the family’s) primary income and they cannot make ends meet without him,” Haigis wrote. “Your donation will give this family a chance to stay together for they don’t have much time. Juan’s hearing is less than three weeks away.”
As of Wednesday morning, several people had donated as much as $500 to the cause, which has a goal of $20,000. Many added messages of support:
“We are thinking of all of you right now. Letters are being written,” wrote Jack, Alex, Brody, Carter, Liam, Tess, Ozzy and Mary McGuire. “Please let us know if you need anything else. We’re just down the road.”
“I am so sorry that you even need to have this fundraiser,” wrote Jill Bessette, who operates a business in Plainfield.
“Maybe a local lawyer could assist at a nominal fee,” wrote John Izzo. “At face value this looks like a person that should be allowed to stay here and has integrated into the community. Good luck.”
Kirsten De La Cruz thanked donors and well-wishers on the page.
“I am overwhelmed with everyone’s generosity,” she wrote. “Your support and strength is what I need to stay strong. Thank you so much.”
The Independent reached out to the family for comment. Kirsten De La Cruz declined to speak on the record at this time, citing the sensitive nature of the family’s situation.
The page may be found at www.gofundme.com/local-father-is-facing-deportation. 

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