Erick Velazquillo came to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago at the age of 2. Now studying nutrition at Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, he hopes a “Dream Team” of young immigrants will help him avoid deportation, reports McClatchy Newspapers.
Velazquillo was arrested for failing to dim his headlights and driving without a valid license. He faces an immigration hearing on July 19.
The Raleigh-based “N.C. Dream Team,” whose slogan is “Undocumented and Unafraid,” is trying to mobilize support for Velazquillo.
“We’ve had enough,” said N.C. Dream Team co-founder Viridiana Martinez of Sanford. “We know we’re taking risks, facing arrest every time we come out. But we have to speak out for ourselves. Because if we don’t do it someone else is going to do it. And that has gotten us nowhere.”
The Dream Team campaigned for Fredd Reyes, a Guilford Technical Community College student awaiting deportation in Georgia. Reyes was released in November after federal officials received more than 3,500 emails on his behalf.
Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible for federal or state aid, so most pay their own way at relatively low-cost community colleges.
The campaign’s name was inspired by the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship through college attendance or military service for illegal immigrants who arrived as children and graduated from U.S. high schools. The bill, first proposed 10 years ago, failed in Congress last year.
Two weeks ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told staff to use discretion in bringing deportation cases against illegal immigrants “present in the United States since childhood.”
In a Senate hearing on the DREAM Act, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the administration would not issue a blanket amnesty to DREAM-eligible students. However, she said “it really doesn’t make sense” to deport college students who’d be allowed to stay if the bill passes. ICE will focus its limited resources on immigrants who pose a threat to public safety, she said.
Several community college students spoke at the hearing.