Erick Velazquillo was just 2 years old when he was brought to the United States from Mexico. Now, after being arrested for a traffic violation he faces deportation to a country he does not know, but he’s getting help from a network of thousands of immigration advocates and a number of fellow undocumented immigrants like himself.
Like so many, Velazquillo did not know he was not in the country legally until his parents told him years later. He went on to finish high school, and attended Central Piedmont Community College where he earned an Associate of Arts degree. When it came time for him to advance, he applied and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Unfortunately, due to his immigration status, he was told he would have to pay out-of-state tuition and was not eligible for any type of financial aid. Not wanting to stop his education, Velazquillo went back to taking classes at the community college.
Everything changed for him once again in October of 2010 when he was pulled over while driving home.
“I was pulled over for having my high beams on in Matthews, North Carolina,” Velazquillo explained on the advocate group N.C. Dream Team’s website. “When I got pulled over I gave the police officer my name- Erick Domingo Velazquillo. The police officer was not able to find me in the computer so he decided to search my vehicle for my license, as I had misplaced it. He found my expired license in my gym bag and accused me of lying about my identity because my license does not show my middle name Domingo.
“The police officer arrested me and charged me with driving without a license and giving fictitious information to an officer because the name on my license read Erick Velazquillo Franco. Franco is my mother’s maiden name, and the DMV wrongfully added this after my last name, thus making Velazquillo seem like my middle name and eliminating my real middle name altogether.”
Because of the DMV error, and the officer’s claim that Velazquillo gave him wrongful information, he was arrested and spent three days in Charolette Mecklenburg County jail. He was bailed out with a $5,000 bond.
Due to this incident, Velazquillo is now facing a deportation order, and on July 19, he will ask an immigration judge and federal prosecutors to let him stay in the country he proudly calls home.
The N.C. Dream Team is a Raleigh-based group that has taken up Velazquillo’s case, and inspired by the civil rights movement, want to push the nation’s young people to stand up for immigration reform. Members of the group have gone so far to announce their own “illegal” status in support of others they say shout be “undocumented and unafraid.”
“We’ve had enough,” said N.C. Dream Team co-founder Viridiana Martinez of Sanford to the Charlotte Observer. “We know we’re taking risks, facing arrest every time we come out. But we have to speak out for ourselves. Because if we don’t do it, someone else is going to do it. And that has gotten us nowhere.”
While the group only has about 1,100 members in North Carolina, as many as 10,000 people are likely to hear about Velazquillo’s case through the group’s national network affiliations.
The Obama administration has deported roughly 800,000 people in just two years, but has adamantly expressed that it does not wish to deport college-age students with no criminal records.
And while the the DREAM Act failed to get passed last fall, groups like N.C. Dream Team, along with U.S.-born supporters are banning together to make it known that the DREAM Act is right for America, not just Velazquillo and others like him.
To sign the petition urging lawmakers to allow Erick Velazquillo to remain in the United States click here.
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