Two sisters in North Carolina are fighting to stop the deportation of their father, a one-time soccer star in South America.
In a home in southern Charlotte, Miguel Angel Tzitzios' oldest daughter, Cristina, tries to hold back the tears when she speaks about her father and what his absence is doing to her 1-year-old son Sebastian.
The life of this 21-year-old mother, who recently won a two-year reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action program, changed on Oct. 21 when Miguel, an Uruguayan citizen, was stopped for driving with expired license plates.
"It was an injustice," Cristina told Efe. "My father showed his expired license and his valid passport, but they felt it was fake because it was written by hand," she said.
Police took Tzitzios to the Mecklenburg County jail, where he was subjected to Program 287(g), which determined his irregular immigration status, and a few days later he was sent to an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center in Georgia.
"We spent a very sad Thanksgiving, my father in jail. There are days he wants to leave and others to keep on fighting, above all for my Sebastian, whom he practically raised," she said.
Cristina has moved heaven and earth to try and stop the deportation of her father.
She received support from the NC Dream Team, which since Nov. 26 has had information on the case posted on its Web page and is coordinating a campaign of telephone calls to ICE to ask for his release.
According to Dream Team founder Viridiana Martinez, Tzitzios' situation is a clear example of what should be a "low priority" case under the latest ICE guidelines.
Tzitzios moved to Charlotte 13 years ago from Ecuador, where he was a professional soccer star in the 1980s and '90s.
Last Friday, Tzitzios' attorneys asked ICE to suspend the deportation on the basis of the fact that the Uruguayan has two children who are legal residents - Cristina and younger sister Alejandra - and a U.S.-born grandson and is the provider for the family.
"We're hoping that Dad spends Christmas with us and that a miracle occurs," Cristina said. EFE