Rigo Padilla was riding the Pink Line train when he got a phone call from his lawyer that immigration officials would allow him to stay in the United States.
“I was hopeful this would happen. I tried to remain positive and just focus on school,” said Padilla shortly after he got the good news from his lawyer who met with Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials Thursday.
Padilla said that he tried not to think about the prospect that he could have been deported to Mexico next week. He tried to stay focused on school and noted that he has two papers to write before the end of the semester.
He was thankful to all the people, students, community organizations and politicians who supported him.
“I want to work hard to prove myself and graduate to college. We fought for them to allow me to graduate college, so I just have to work hard and prove them right,” Padila said.
But Padilla also noted that he is not alone. There are more than 65,000 students who graduate from high school each year who are undocumented. They were brought here by their parents as children and are unable to fulfill their potential and become legal permanent residents unless Congress passes the DREAM Act or comprehensive immigration reform
“I hope that my case could be beneficial to people because there are other college students who are facing deportation,” Padilla said.
He added they should “be allowed to eventually give back to this country.”
Padilla, 21, who was brought to the United States at the age of 6 by his parents, was arrested for a DUI in January. It is a misdemeanor and he was given supervision. Nobody was hurt in the incident.
This young man deserved a second chance – one that would be granted to any U.S. citizen in the same circumstance. It’s encouraging that ICE and the Obama Administration showed compassion. But his was an individual case and there are many more young immigrants, class valedictorians and hard workers, who deserve to stay in the United States.
Immigrant advocates said the community support and especially a private bill introduced on Padilla’s behalf by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) played a key role in ICE granting the stay of deportation.
“ICE deferred this deportation because of the magnificent unified support of the people of Chicago,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which rallied behind Padilla over the last several months. “They did it because the Obama Administration understands that it does not make sense to deport young people who are contributing.”
Padilla will be allowed to stay one more year but the stay of deportation can be renewed, explained his lawyer Kalman D. Resnick.
“There are many good people in our government who are concerned that justice be done for people like Rigo and all the many Rigos in our country,” Resnick said.
Padilla said that he hopes to graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago within a year. A possible career he is considering is as an immigration attorney.
“I want to graduate college and give back to this country,” he said.
He apologized for the DUI and wants to move forward. “My life is bigger than that one mistake,” he said.