An Oceanside-based minister detained two months ago by U.S. immigration authorities is now out on bail and is working toward a path to gain legal status.
Jorge Ramirez spoke to NBC 7 on Saturday – his first full day out of jail. He said he has a lot to do.
On May 31, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detained Ramirez in front of his home as he was getting ready to head to work.
"It looked like five guys threw me on the ground, put on their knee, grabbed me, picked me up and threw me in the expedition and drove away," he recounted. "It was unreal, one of those things you see in movies."
Ramirez said his parents brought him to the United States when he was 11 years old. He also said he had legal status through a work visa in the 1990s but that status only lasted six months.
He admitted he's been living in the country illegally for more than 30 years, understanding the reality that he could be detained and deported at any time.
Since his arrest he said his initial hearing was delayed but all of his paperwork was submitted by his immigration attorney showing his record in the country – an entire life he’s built here over the decades.
"Twenty years of tax returns, letters from community leaders, pastors from the places that I worked, pretty much everything," Ramirez explained. "I had report cards from when I was in 6th grade; my graduation; my diplomas; my perfect attendance."
When asked why he didn't apply for legal residency earlier, he said his lawyers offered a 50/50 chance of gaining legal status or being deported. Faced with the odds, he declined.
Ramirez said his path to legalizing his status is clearer now, and he’s already started the process. His son can now apply to let Ramirez live in the U.S. legally.
"My son turned 21 on July 18," he said. "When he did that, I was able to file under him."
Ramirez said he wishes ICE officers would’ve reached out to him with a notice to appear in court rather than detaining him and putting him in jail. He said he would’ve showed up to court.
“They could have called me; they could have sent a notice,” he said. “They know me. I live in the same place. I own a house; it's not like I'm going anywhere.”
Despite prior reports that Ramirez was a supporter of President Donald Trump, the minister insisted that was never the case.