A UC Berkeley student held by San Diego immigration authorities was released Wednesday afternoon in Otay Mesa.
Luis Mora, a 20-year-old Cal junior born in Colombia, was taken into custody Dec. 30. when he and his girlfriend made a wrong turn and drove into an immigration checkpoint between Jamul and Delzura, Telemundo 20 reported.
Mora had been in Chula Vista visiting his girlfriend over the holiday.
Checkpoint officials asked the two if they were U.S. citizens and Mora said that he was undocumented.
"My girlfriend and her family, I love you," Mora said minutes after he walked out of the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Wednesday. "It's a beautiful day and it feels great. It feels great."
Mora came to the United States on a visa in 2009 when he was 11 years old which disqualifies him from protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which requires the person in question must have been living in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
He requested a hearing after being detained so that he could continue his education at Cal where he studies pre-law political science.
"This is just the beginning," Mora's lawyer Prerna Lal said. Lal posted a $1,500 bond for his release Wednesday. "He just needs some time to sort of get over this experience and move forward with his life, because it's definitely very traumatic as well and he's only 20 years old."
Though released, Mora still faces deportation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement regarding Mora's release:
"ICE will transfer his case to the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations office in the area where he resides. His removal proceedings remain ongoing. The immigration judge with the executive office for Immigration Review will determine the final outcome of his case."
Lal said it could take a year for Mora's case to be transferred to the Bay Area and for him to have his first hearing. In the meantime, Lal hopes to work with Mora and set him on a path toward citizenship.
Support for Mora's release has poured in from across the state since his arrest, but there are other people who believe that he should ultimately be removed.
"He's an illegal immigrant," Jeff Schwilk of San Diegans for Secure Borders said. "The law is very clear. When they're caught they must be returned to their home country."
"It doesn't matter his circumstances," Schwilk added. "He is here illegally, and even he admits he is here illegally. So he was here in defiance of our laws and will probably pay the price.
Following his release, Mora shared his appreciation for all those who supported him even though they had never met and extended the same appreciation to those critical of his presence in the country.
“That’s why I love this country, because we have different perspectives," Mora said. "Wherever you come from, what your mission is or what your goal is in life – that’s what makes this country great because we all have different perspectives and at the end of the day we bring everything together.”
Mora plans to stay with his girlfriend's family in Chula Vista following his release before eventually making his way back to Berkeley to resume school on Monday.