Immigrant hangs hopes on 'Dream Team' to avoid deportation

Charlotte ObserverJuly 1, 2011 

A 22-year-old Central Piedmont Community College student facing deportation has placed his future in the hands of a group of his peers - also young, also here illegally.

Erick Velazquillo says they're his last hope to stay in the country that's been his home since he was 2.

Velazquillo, who graduated from South Mecklenburg High, was arrested in October. The charges: failing to dim his headlights and driving without a valid license. He is now in the process of being deported.

On July 19, he'll ask an immigration judge and federal prosecutors to not send him back to Mexico.

He said two Latino organizations and several lawyers advised him not to fight for fear he would receive greater immigration penalties.

Instead, he turned to a statewide group of young activists, known as the "N.C. Dream Team."

The Raleigh-based group, whose slogan is "Undocumented and Unafraid," thinks it can help. Velazquillo's case is their first Charlotte initiative.

Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the Dream Team is part of a national push by young people to the front of immigration reform.

They've confronted legislators, launched hunger strikes, and even announced their illegal status to draw attention to their demands.

They are calling for passage of "the Dream Act," a legal change that would make it easier for young people to become U.S. citizens if they attend college or join the military.

And they say they are fed up with established Latino advocates whom they accuse of botching earlier bipartisan support for the act.

Read the full story at CharlotteObserver.com

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