A University of California, San Diego student who was in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and facing deportation after making a wrong turn at the U.S.-Mexico border was released Friday, an official confirmed to NBC 7.
Orr Yakobi, 22, is an Israeli citizen who is in the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The immigration program allows those who entered the U.S. as minors to stay in the U.S. with some restrictions, including traveling outside of the country. DACA recipients are also known as "DREAMers."
Yakobi and his roommate, Ryan Hakim, were shopping at an outlet mall in San Ysidro Sunday when the pair got on southbound Interstate 5 instead of northbound Interstate 805.
"Once we got onto the ramp, we couldn't turn around. We couldn't pull over," Ryan Hakim said. "We were forced into Mexico."
When the men attempted to return to the U.S, officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped the vehicle and checked Yakobi's documentation.
"I was so scared when we were there and I tried to explain to the U.S. official what was going on," Yakobi told NBC 7 in a phone interview hours after being released. "I was just so afraid that I couldn’t even get words out of my mouth."
The two men said they were in shock and had no idea what to do.
"I was really trying to be careful to not say anything wrong or do something wrong," Yakobi said. "It was very terrifying."
Yakobi was detained at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Yakobi was transferred into ICE custody and was being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility awaiting an immigration hearing.
After five days in custody, Yakobi was released.
“There are people that have been detained for over a year, Yakobi said. "I am just glad that it was so quick and I'm out and I'm able to talk to people and hopefully help other DREAMers.”
Yakobi's arrest had garnered an outpouring of support from officials across the state.
The hashtag #Freeorr was created on Twitter and was being used by Calfornia congress members, assembly members and advocates to urge ICE to release the student.
State Assemblymember Todd Gloria tweeted about Yakobi's release Friday.
On Wednesday, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla sent a letter to the Director of ICE’s San Diego field office, Gregory Archambeault.
In the letter, Khosla said Yakobi is scheduled to graduate at the end of the Winter quarter this year and urged ICE to consider releasing the student under parole.
“He is a valued and active member of our UC San Diego community, and we would very much like to have him return to our campus so he can fulfill his ultimate goal of obtaining his degree,” the letter read.
Yakobi's attorney said the student was released on parole and without bond. He maintains his DACA status.
Yakobi told NBC 7 he believes the support he received aided in his release.
I think it was a combination of the support – from the school, my friends, the general community, fellow DREAMers, a little bit of god, Yakobi said. "Everything together really helped the situation."
He said he hopes his story helps other DREAMers, who may not always get as much attention.
“I just want people to understand that the DREAMers are just normal kids that have been living here their whole lives and they go to school here," Yakobi said. "Yeah they’re American, and just because some piece of paper says that they're not American, or vice versa, shouldn’t make a difference. They're positive members of society and should be treated as such."
Yakobi was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was five years old. He is a math and computer science major, is just two classes from graduating, and is already working as a freelance programmer.
“I just want to go back to school, finish and continue with my life, and hopefully make a little bit of a difference in this whole fight with DACA,” Yakobi said.
“To all my fellow DREAMers, keep on dreaming and move forward,” Yakobi said.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to prevent Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while their lawsuits play out in court.
President Donald Trump says the U.S. court system is -- in his words -- "broken and unfair."
UCSD sent out another letter following Yakobi's release. It read: "We are very pleased that Orr Yakobi has been released, so he can now return to UC San Diego to fulfill his ultimate goal of obtaining his degree."