Teenager’s threat of deportation lifted — for now
El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — Community action appears to have paid off in the case of Gustavo Romero Álvarez. When the 19-year-old Centennial High School senior faced possible deportation for shoplifting a t-shirt, the community stepped up, holding a candlelight vigil on Dec. 14 and calling local politicians on Romero Álvarez’s behalf.
On Dec. 19 the organization Dream Activist sent out an email announcing that Oregon’s chief counsel with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had contacted Romero Álvarez to tell him his case had been dropped.
A phone call from El Hispanic News to Jaime Limón Guzmán, a member of the Northwest Immigrant Youth Alliance who has been serving as Romero Álvarez’s spokesperson, was not returned. However, he told KATU News that deportation had been averted for now, but Romero Álvarez may still have a long-term immigration status fight on his hands.
Romero Álvarez, a clean-cut young man who wore a school letterman’s jacket to the vigil held on his behalf in front of Portland’s City Hall on Dec. 14, was brought to the United States by his parents from Nayarit, Mexico, when he was 11 years old.
His undocumented status came to the attention of immigration officials when he shoplifted a t-shirt from Macy’s last year. As a result, he was scheduled to appear at the ICE office in Portland on Dec. 16.
“I was hanging out with bad people,” Romero Álvarez told El Hispanic News. He admits he succumbed to peer pressure, but said he wants to show ICE that he is not a bad person.
Late last year the Obama Administration announced it would not treat immigration cases without criminal offenses as high priority, but the theft moved Romero Álvarez up that priority list.
At the candlelight vigil, some of Romero Álvarez’s supporters, among them his fellow Centennial students, wore “Tean Guz” t-shirts.
“I don’t want to see Gustavo go to a place that’s not his home,” said a young woman who identified herself as Tatiana and a school mate of Romero Álvarez since the eighth grade. She added that she hoped he will be able to fulfill his dream to become a firefighter.
“This is the real effects, the consequences, of this broken system that we have,” said Marco Mejía, who is affiliated with Jobs with Justice. Mejía said there are many reasons — often outside of their control — why immigrants come to this country in search of a new home.
“The real criminals are the ones that destroyed the world with the economic crisis,” he said.
A man named Jaime, who said he is also undocumented, called Romero Álvarez’s case “an attack on all of us.”
“We all make mistakes,” he added. But for the undocumented “even a small mistake can separate them from their families.”
Romero Álvarez, addressing the crowd and expressing his appreciation for their support, said, “We’re not alone out here. We have rights. … It takes time to fight, but I think we can make it.”
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