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Jonathan Chavez, an honors student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, was on his way home to visit his parents when immigration authorities nabbed him on a bus and hauled him to a private detention facility in Florida. His crime? Despite the fact that his parents have legal status in the United States, Jonathan does not possess legal status because his naturalization process was stalled when he turned 18.
Jonathan came from Peru as a minor under his parents’ work visas. He grew up like any other American kid in Rogers, Arkansas. Jonathan sang solos in the church choir and graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade-point-average. Not only was he accepted to the University of Arkansas, he is a member of their celebrated Honors College and is only two semesters away from graduating. Besides being a sharp student and beautiful singer, Jonathan is a young man who wants to give back to his community. Everyone who knows Jonathan speaks about him in glowing terms. His community is waiting for him to come home and his friends started a petition at Change.org on his behalf requesting immigration authorities for deferred action.
As President Barack Obama continues to turn his back on immigrant communities, thousands of students stand on trial for their lives, awaiting deportations to countries that they do not know. Jonathan has his deportation hearing this Thursday.
It is futile to detain and deport Jonathan Chavez on the basis that he is breaking the law. He never chose to come to the United States and no one could have predicted that he would not be able to adjust his status along with his parents due to an arbitrary age limit and the sloth-like pace at which the immigration bureaucracy works.
What happened to Jonathan can happen to any (Latino) American teenager who does not carry a birth certificate and U.S. passport at all times. Following the logic of our immigration officials, failure to produce evidence of legal status at random places in the United States means one is here illegally and deserves to be detained and deported. One has to wonder exactly who is served by this acrimonious and callous policy.
Right now, Jonathan should be in college attending classes. There is no earthly reason for putting him in deportation, much less a detention facility hundreds of miles from his home state of Arkansas. Tell ICE to release him from the detention center in Florida immediately and re-open his case for naturalization.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Chavez