Updated 10/04/2011 05:38 PM
Charlotte teen allowed to stay in U.S. to finish school after ICE investigation
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CHARLOTTE -- A 16-year old Harding High School student facing deportation learned Tuesday he will be allowed to stay in the United States to finish school.
Rodrigo Cruz's immigration status came into question after he was arrested in January for shoplifting. The charges against him were dropped but Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had already started the deportation process.
“I was checked into a program called 287g, which they're allowed to ask you where you're from, what's your citizenship status in this country and stuff like that,” he said.
When Cruz arrived at the ICE office, he was originally supposed to prove he would leave the country by Oct. 21. Instead, he learned his case would be deferred and he would be allowed to stay until he was 18. Cruz has been in the U.S. since he was 10 years old.
“I'm unfortunately undocumented, so this was just like a huge win,” Cruz said.
Advocates say the Obama Administration policy focusing deportation on the most criminal illegal immigrants should be followed, and students like Cruz shouldn't fear being forced to leave the country.
"Students that could become assets for the country continue to be deported to foreign lands they don't recognize,” said Martin Rodriguez, of El Cambio.
Rodriguez says it's up to the community to raise awareness about the fact that the John Morton memo is not being enforced as it should be. The six-page document released in June outlines how immigration cases should be individually considered, primarily because there are more violations than ICE can handle and prosecutorial discresion should be exercised in who should be prosecuted and who shouldn't.
The memo includes 19 factors considered positive for the illegal immigrants, like the pursuit of education.
Critics say the memo ignores Congress and existing federal law.
As a condition of his case being deferred, Cruz will have to check in with immigration officials every three months.