San Diego

Lawyer Fights for Student Facing Deportation After Being Detained in San Diego

Luis Mora, 20, is undocumented and has lived in the United States since he was 11 years old; he now faces deportation

A California college student facing deportation was being held at a San Diego detention facility Thursday, but his lawyer told NBC 7 paperwork ordering him to appear in immigration court has not been received.

University of California, Berkeley junior Luis Mora, 20, is being held at immigration enforcement's Otay Mesa Detention Center.

The student was visiting his girlfriend in Chula Vista over the holiday break. On Dec. 30, the pair were driving when Mora's girlfriend took a wrong turn and wound up at an immigration checkpoint between Jamul and Dulzura, in southeast San Diego County.

U.S. Border Patrol officials said Mora was detained at the checkpoint. Activists and friends said the student admitted to being undocumented but asked for a hearing so he could return to UC Berkeley.

Mora's attorney, Prerna Lal, said as of Thursday neither she nor her client has received paperwork confirming a hearing date.

“ICE has 72 hours to issue a notice to appear in immigration court, what are terms against you and where to appear for the hearing," Lal said. "Luis doesn’t have it and neither do I.”

ICE has not responded to NBC 7's request for comment on Mora's case. 

Lal plans to get those documents but her main focus is getting a bond for Mora so he can return to campus. 

“I need to get a hold of his deportation officer so I can negotiate a bond for him and if not that, then I need to file a motion for bond hearing once his case is filed in the court.”

Supporters are also calling on authorities to let Mora finish his education, using the hashtag #FreeLuis on social media.

"Luis would have qualified for many of the iterations of the Dream Act that were proposed by Congress, but Congress decided not to act on it," an immigration advocate said. "Now, we have a student, Mora, who is in custody."

Mora first came to the United States in 2009 when he was 11 years old. Because of the year that Mora entered the U.S., Lal said he doesn’t qualify for the DACA program. However, he would qualify for the DREAM Act because he has been here for seven years.

Lal said Mora has no criminal record.

He is studying political science at UC Berkeley, with dreams of one day becoming a lawyer. Mora's mother lives in Ecuador; his father died a few years ago.

As part of the #FreeLuis movement, advocates are raising money to help fund the student's bond on this website.

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