Jaime Leon Rivas, undocumented teen immigrant, released from detention
Update: Jaime Leon Rivas, a nineteen-year-old undocumented immigrant who we wrote about last week (see below), has been released from detention, where he was awaiting deportation. On April 2, a week after his friends and family held a vigil outside the GEO immigrant detention center in Aurora on the occasion of his nineteenth birthday, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) granted his request for a "stay of removal." Leon Rivas will be allowed to remain in the U.S. for a year while he continues to fight his deportation case, his lawyer says.
Jaime Leon Rivas.
Leon Rivas is still under ICE supervision, however, and is required to check in periodically with a deportation officer. He's also required to apply for a type of immigration relief known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that's available to young undocumented immigrants who, like Leon Rivas, came to the United States as children. He's also petitioning the court to overturn his deportation order.
There's other good news for Leon Rivas, too. Because he was able to complete some schoolwork while in detention, he's still on track to graduate from Snowy Peaks High School in Frisco on May 22. And after graduation, he has plans to get married. He and his girlfriend, Jenny Martinez, who is a U.S. citizen, recently became engaged.
Here's our previous coverage.
Original post, 1:03 p.m. March 26: Jaime Leon Rivas turned nineteen years old yesterday. But he didn't spend his birthday with his girlfriend, his friends or his family. No, the Summit County resident spent it inside the GEO immigrant detention center in Aurora, where his girlfriend says he's the youngest person in the custody of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. At 6 p.m. last night, his loved ones -- including staff from Snowy Peaks High School in Frisco, where he was set to become the first member of his family to graduate high school this spring -- held vigil outside the hulking building.
"I hope everyone can see this and know that it's wrong," says his girlfriend, 21-year-old Jenny Martinez. "Students shouldn't be deported. Students deserve to graduate."
Leon Rivas and his brother fled gang violence El Salvador when Leon Rivas was ten years old. They were caught at the U.S. border and, according to immigrant advocates, coerced into signing a voluntary departure, which means the boys agreed to leave on their own. But they didn't do so; instead, they joined family members in Colorado and made a life here. Two years later, in 2007, ICE ordered that Leon Rivas be deported immediately -- an order that the agency didn't act upon until recently.
Leon Rivas and some young friends.
Leon Rivas was a troubled youth and had several run-ins with the police. According to an excellent story in the Summit Daily about Leon Rivas's case, he ended up in Colorado's juvenile justice system for offenses such as stealing out of unlocked cars. In 2011, a friend invited Leon Rivas to move with him to California, where he landed in more trouble. His friend was affiliated with the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the same gang that terrorized El Salvador and had murdered Rivas's grandfather. According to the Summit Daily, Leon Rivas never joined the gang. But he was picked up after he asked a man for his money, at the gang's request, and the man gave it to him.
Leon Rivas ended up in a juvenile detention center in Colorado -- and he came out a changed person. His teacher, Jen Wolinetz, remembers that as a young teen, Leon Rivas was "mean, insubordinate and angry." When he showed up at Snowy Peaks, an alternative high school, after being released from detention, he was different, she says: "He is an incredibly kind person and incredibly genuine.... He acknowledges that he's done things wrong. Jaime is able to reflect with genuine perspective on the choices he's made and he's willing to talk about it." She describes him as respectful to teachers and a leader to his peers. At school, she says, "he crosses all groups and is really loved."
Continue for our previous coverage about the deportation procedure targeting Jaime Leon Rivas.