Saturday, July 30, 2011

CPCC student's deportation dropped


CPCC student's deportation dropped: ICE officials end efforts to send undocumented CPCC student Erick Velazquillo back to Mexico, for now.

By Franco Ordoñez
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 30, 2011

Erick Velazquillo, a 22-year-old Central Piedmont Community College student living in the country illegally, was working on translating all his school transcripts. He thought he was going to be deported back to Mexico.

Now immigration officials have dropped deportation efforts, his attorney confirmed Friday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to administratively close his case, but it's not terminated. It could be reopened at any time.

"He's safe for right now," said attorney Janeen Hicks Pierre. "We're definitely out of the line of fire. ... No one is going to come to his house and arrest him. But where we go from here, we're not sure."

Hicks Pierre thanked ICE for offering to close the case, but noted Velazquillo's status is unchanged. He still has no documents and is unable to work legally.

The South Mecklenburg High School graduate moved to the United States with his parents when he was 2. He's never been back, he says.

Last October, Velazquillo was arrested for driving with an expired license and taken to Mecklenburg County jail. He was identified as an illegal immigrant and placed into deportation proceedings.

For help, he turned to a statewide group of young activists, many in the country illegally themselves. The Raleigh-based N.C. Dream Team launched a national campaign on his behalf. More than 1,000 calls and emails were made to federal officials on his behalf. Nearly 3,000 people signed a petition calling for his case to be deferred.

"We're happy. It's a victory," said 24-year-old member Domenic Powell, who grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Hopewell High. "It means more undocumented youth need to come out and fight their deportation. If you fight it, you can win."

The Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two years.

ICE officials did not immediately respond to questions about Velazquillo's case. But this month, ICE Director John Morton announced the agency was encouraging agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" for illegal immigrants who are seeking college degrees.

Authorities are now instructed to give "particular care and consideration" to individuals "present in the United States since childhood."

The N.C. Dream Team cited the so-called Morton memo at rallies and had supporters call the director as well as their elected officials.

"Erick took his situation into his own hands," said member Viridiana Martinez, 25, of Sanford. "He took this public. There is power in that. All of a sudden it's something you can't ignore."

Hicks Pierre said she would continue to work with immigration officials to see if Velazquillo's status could be changed so that he could work and study without concern of reprisals.

Velazquillo and his family said they still fear he could be arrested and deported at anytime.

"It's not enough," said his sister, Angelica. "He still can't work. He was arrested and put in jail. We're going to pretend nothing happened? It doesn't seem realistic. It shows the problem with the policy. This is not good enough. This is not a solution."

Franco Ordoñez: 704-358-6180. Follow him on Twitter @FrancoOrdonez.

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