Charlotte – A 16-year-old undocumented student in North Carolina due to be deported to Mexico on Oct. 21 will be allowed to remain in the United States a while longer, immigration authorities decided on Tuesday.
Rodrigo Cruz was granted the deportation postponement and will be allowed to remain in the United States until the day before his 18th birthday.
"I'm going to be able to finish my studies and perhaps go to the university. Many thanks to the community for all its support and if I can do so, others who are in my same situation can fight for their cases (too)," said Cruz outside the Charlotte offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The 10th grade student arrived in Charlotte when he was 10 along with his brother Silverio, now 15, and their mother Angelica Ambrosio to join his father, who was working construction in the area.
Ambrosio told Efe that her children quickly adapted to their new home, became active members of a local Catholic church and Rodrigo became a volunteer coach of a youth soccer league.
"This is an excellent country. We love Charlotte, it's a town that welcomed us well and the people are very supportive. My sons are good, respectful, very Catholic, but everything changed in a moment," Ambrosio said.
On Jan. 3, Rodrigo went with some friends to a shopping center to buy some shoes and when he came out of a department store bathroom he found a bracelet that had been dropped on the floor.
When he tried to explain what had happened to the store managers, Cruz was arrested and accused of theft and since in North Carolina minors can be charged as adults, he ended up in the county jail.
There he was processed under the 287(g) program, which determined his irregular immigration status in the United States and although the criminal charges were dropped, ICE continued with the deportation process.
When he was on the verge of being deported, the Cruz family and their lawyer turned to the NC DREAM Team.
The group had prevented several deportations, organized support campaigns on the Internet for people facing deportation and held public events to raise awareness of the importance of passing the DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation that would provide a path to citizenship to qualified undocumented students.
NC DREAM Team, with the support of local organizations, last week organized a support vigil for Cruz at a Catholic church to make the public aware of the young man's case.
"This case is unique because it's the first time that an attorney has asked us for support to unite the community and strengthen the request for the mentioned action for his client. What works here is the pressure exercised by the television cameras and the media," The DREAM Team's Angelica Velazquillo told Efe.
The group has pressured immigration authorities to comply with the parameters of discretion set forth by the Obama administration and not deport students who would qualify for the DREAM Act.
"What happened today is a sign of the power the community has when a 'dreamer' decides to come out of the shadows and make his case known. It's what we recommend to everyone," activist Martin Rodriguez said.
Cruz will have to present himself at the ICE offices every three months, stay out of trouble and hope that a law adjusts his legal situation in the country before he turns 18.