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For Rodrigo Cruz, A Miracle Happened

Rodrigo Cruz (left) stands with his mother Angelica and brother Silvio.

Rodrigo Cruz (left) stands with his mother Angelica and brother Silvio.

Rodrigo Cruz walked into Charlotte's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office Tuesday morning with his suit jacket buttoned. The 16-year-old faced deportation, and this was his day to check in with the office and prove that he would be leaving the United States by October 21. That proof was a bus ticket -tucked into folder- that would transport him back to his grandparents in Mexico. 

But this day was also Cruz's chance for him and his lawyer, Carnell Johnson, to make a case for why he should be allowed to stay in Charlotte and continue his studies as a sophomore at Harding University High School. Cruz came to this country illegally with his parents when he was 10 years old.

He was identified as an illegal immigrant after being arrested for shoplifting a bracelet from the Sears department store in Carolina Place Mall. This was Cruz's first offense, so the shoplifting charges were dropped. But because of section 287 g of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes local law enforcement to initiate deportation proceedings, Cruz was flagged by ICE and ordered to return to Mexico.

Outside the Charlotte ICE office, Cruz's mother Angelica, his younger brother Silvio, and close to three dozen supporters gathered at the back edge of the parking lot. Representatives from immigration reform advocacy groups Action NC, the NC Dream Team, and the Charlotte Immigrant Solidarity Committee called a press conference to draw awareness to Cruz's case.

No matter the outcome, Cruz was going to speak. While they waited on the young man to emerge from the building, Mrs. Cruz remarked that she was sad. "But I am also calm, because God is with us, and ultimately he has the last word," she said. "Hopefully everything will go well."

After about two hours, Cruz walked out to the crowd waiting for him. He was smiling. "We filed a request for a deferred action, which was a request that ICE not enforce or at least relax the laws on this particular case," said Johnson, Cruz's attorney. "I felt we submitted compelling reasons."

Johnson spoke about Cruz's intentions to attend college and study franchise management and international business when the young man gets older. "He wants to be a soccer coach for the big soccer clubs around the world with FIFA," said Johnson. "We also talked about the community support that he had here."

Rodrigo shows his mother his deferment papers. He is allowed to stay in the United States another two years, until his 18th birthday. ICE granted Cruz's request for a deferred deportation action. He is allowed to stay in the United States another two years, until he turns 18, but he must return to that office every three months to check in.

With the brick U.S. Department of Homeland Security sign at his back, Cruz embraced his mother and spoke to the crowd. It had grown to include a couple of television news crews, local Hispanic radio stations, and Hispanic newspapers. "I wouldn't really say I was scared, but I was a little worried about the outcome of the deferred action or anything like that," he said. "I was kinda worried about what was going to happen, you know? But, you know, miracles happen."

Cruz said he's going to go back to school. "I'm going to do something with my life. Keep studying, hopefully. And in these two years that I have left here, maybe a law can be passed or something to allow me to stay here for quite some time and make something for myself, you know?"