Photo: Juan Gomez, Georgetown student faces deportation
Imagine being on the verge of graduating from Georgetown University, being offered a dream job with J.P. Morgan Chase in New York, and making your hard working immigrant parents proud. Now imagine being deported and having all of that mean nothing. That is what one college student is now facing.
Juan Gomez, 22, has held the key to the American Dream in his hands – an envelope containing an job offer from one of the most impressive institutions on Wall Street, but he may have to give it up, if he is deported to Colombia.
Gomez, who hasn’t even seen Colombia since he was two, said the job offer “is such an opportunity for me and my family.” As the son of a security guard and a hotel maid, Juan has risen above and worked hard and will graduated magna cum laude on May 21, and while his Wall Street offers are not the average undocumented’s experience, he is facing deportation just like many of them.
Things quickly spiraled when, in 2007, immigration agents stormed into his family’s Miami home and took Juan, his brother and his parents to a detention center. The family had lost their years-long struggle to apply for political asylum and had not left when told to do so. His parents were sent back to Colombia, but after his friends and teachers lobbied for him, he was allowed to stay, at least until he finished college.
Now, with graduation just around the corner, Gomez is hoping the work permit he has as a student (I-765 visa) will be renewed, because if not, he only has permission to stay in the U.S. through next spring. His chance at the American Dream slipping through his fingers.
Passage of the DREAM Act would ideally help those just like Gomez – undocumented students willing to go on to higher education or serve in the military as part of a path to permanent residency.
A high school friend of Gomez, Scott Elfenbein, who led the fight to keep him in the U.S., said, “He is a perfect example of the kind of person we don’t want to lose. I sure wouldn’t want to get rid of someone who is going to pay that much in taxes and contribute as much to society as Juan is.”
Elfenbein is now a senior at Harvard, and started a group to lobby for the DREAM Act. He and Gomez are now facing opposition from those like Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA.
“The reason that people like him can make the claim they are in this tough situation is because his parents were allowed to break the law by holding a job for year after year,” Beck said. “He’s a very compelling case, but because he’s getting this job, there will be an American somewhere down the line who won’t get one.”
Staying in the U.S., while allowing for a six-figure income that would greatly help his family, would also mean that Gomez will not see his family for an even longer period of time. He has already not seen them (aside from Skype video chats) since they were deported. His parents are not allowed to return to the U.S. for ten years, and Juan cannot travel outside the country until he is a legal resident.
Right now however, Gomez is not alone in the country. His brother, Alex, 23, is in Miami, but unable to afford tuition with waiter’s wages, he dropped out of college. Currently, he has not worked in six weeks, after fracturing his ankle. He has no health insurance, and actually cut the cast off himself. Like their parents, Alex knows Juan’s potential salary at J.P. Morgan’s Latin American division could save his family from poverty.
“This would be more money than mu parents would have made in four or five years in Miami or ever in Colombia,” Alex told The Washington Post without revealing the exact salary or bonuses his brother was offered. “It would be life-changing for all of us.”