Driver in tragic accident returns to Forest Grove after deportation 'negated'

CisnerosCinthya Garcia (Cisneros), who accidentally killed two young Forest Grove sisters last October when she unknowingly struck them with a car as they lay in a pile of fallen leaves, has been released from the Immigration & Customs Enforcement facility in Tacoma.

“She was really shocked. And also very ecstatic, of course,” said Garcia’s immigration attorney, Courtney Carter, who successfully argued a deferred action claim before a Tacoma immigration judge. Carter notified Garcia by phone that she was going to be released.

Garcia’s father, Mario Garcia Sr., confirmed his daughter was released last Thursday.

Garcia, 19, was convicted Jan. 15 on two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver — a class B felony — but was spared prison time after parents of the two stepsisters spoke movingly of forgiveness during the Jan. 31 sentencing hearing and asked Judge Rick Knapp to keep Garcia out of prison.

Knapp responded by sentencing Garcia to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service, which would have allowed her release back into the community if her immigration status hadn’t caught up with her.

Brought illegally to the United States when she was 4, Garcia had recently gained temporary legal status through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the felony conviction erased that status. Two days after her sentencing, Garcia was transferred to the ICE facility in Tacoma, where she spent nearly seven months, fearing deportation.

It was a different kind of deferred action claim that Carter argued and won. This type of deferred action is available for certain cases, but Carter did not specify the details that qualified Garcia.

The deferred action “negates the charges of deportability,” Carter said, and will allow Garcia to get a Social Security number and a work permit.

Garcia is back in Forest Grove and has already checked in with Washington County Parole and Probation so she will be able to start her community service, Carter said. Garcia will also be able to return to a beauty school in Hillsboro, where she had been studying prior to her arrest.

Carter said support from the parents of the victims — Abigail Robinson, 11, and Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, 6 — was pivotal to her claim’s success.

Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson, who headed the girls’ blended family, shared this statement following Garcia’s release:

“Today is like any other day without our girls. Through our grief we have chosen to love and celebrate the joy that they have brought into our lives and the lives of so many others. We don’t want Anna and Abigail’s lives to be remembered by the tragedy but rather by the love story they are teaching us all to live.”

The deferred action could be revoked if Garcia were to be convicted of any future crimes, Carter said. But Garcia, who had no criminal history before the Forest Grove tragedy, is at very low risk for reoffending, she said.

Garcia’s case sparked strong feelings from anti-immigration activists who wanted to see her deported, but also from supporters who empathized with the horrifyingly innocent and random nature of the incident. Garcia apparently struck the sisters as they hid in a leaf pile, then continued home, thinking she’d run over a log or a rock.

Garcia was convicted for not coming forward and identifying herself as the driver after learning what had happened, and for initially lying about her involvement when police questioned her.

Dieter-Robinson, who arrived at the accident scene while Anna was still lying in the street, desperately wanted to hold her daughter but was prevented from doing so, she said, because the crash was being investigated as a hit-and-run crime. Garcia’s failure to come forward, she said, prevented her from giving her daughter that last goodbye.

During her time in the Washington County Jail and then later in Tacoma, Garcia did not get any therapy related to her role in the fatal crash.

“There’s some stages she’s going to go through as she re-enters society,” Carter said.

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