Our VoiceCulture

Charlotte, NC: Community Rallies, Rodrigo Cruz Ambrocio Saved from Deportation

Glenn Hutchinson • Oct 18, 2011

When a community comes together, deportations can be stopped, and such was the case recently in North Carolina.

Originally from Mexico, Rodrigo Cruz Ambrocio has lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, since he was 10 years-old. He is 16 now and a sophomore in high school.

Rodrigo was arrested on January 3, 2011, after being accused of shoplifting at the mall. Although the criminal charges were dropped, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) planned to deport him to Mexico, a country that is no longer his home.

Rodrigo wants to attend college and study international relations and franchise management. He wants to continue contributing to his community. He has been a Boy Scout for the last four years, and volunteers to coach soccer for children ages 6-10.

Rodrigo’s father, mother, and brother were, it goes without saying, extremely concerned about him and his on-going ordeal. Obviously, he did not want to leave them. He wanted to stay in Charlotte, to pursue his own dreams.

After being told by several lawyers that there was nothing he could do about his deportation, Rodrigo’s family reached out to several community groups, including the NC Dream Team, Action NC, and the Immigration Solidarity Committee. We worked together to start a petition, hold a vigil, organize a reading of a play that dramatized the stories of undocumented students, and solicit media coverage of his story.

On October 4, we gathered outside the Department of Homeland Security’s local office for Rodrigo to head inside with his lawyer to begin challenging his deportation. TV crews from local stations arrived along with radio stations and newspaper reporters and photographers. The DHS security officer even came out to the parking lot several times, so surprised to see all of these cameras outside that government building. We were asked to move to the front entrance and wait for Rodrigo.

Thanks to this media coverage, the Charlotte community was learning that a 16 year-old could be deported, and more people began speaking out. Over two hours later, Rodrigo exited the DHS office with a smile. He had been given deferred status, which means he’ll be able to finish high school and not be deported.

And so, because his case was made public, and because the public took more than simple notice, Rodrigo was able to stop his deportation.

Although President Obama has said that students like Rodrigo will not be targeted, there are many more young people facing deportation proceedings. And although we celebrate the good news for Rodrigo and his family, President Obama has deported and continues to deport people at a faster rate than those before him. With the help of community groups, media coverage, and petitions, deportations can be stopped.

But what about all the hundreds of thousands whose stories don’t make the headlines? What about Miguel, yet another undocumented student being unjustly held in detention?

We need to change our laws so that families like Rodrigo’s don’t have to endure the threat of being separated. We need our legislators to uphold the rights of immigrants.

Visit www.dreamactivist.org to learn about other cases and about how you can help.

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