Gerardo Noriega, a twenty-year-old Smoky Hill High School graduate, will be able to stay with his family until at least December 5. He was granted a continuation at his second deportation hearing in Federal Immigration Court today.
Noriega moved to Colorado when he was nine and is the only member of his family who has not been granted legal resident status. See a photo slideshow from today's protest.
"Deportation would mean complete separation, because my whole family got their documents," Noriega says. "Both my parents are residents and I have two citizen brothers. I was the only one who got stuck in the middle. I call Colorado my home. It would pretty much be sending me to a complete unknown country."
Noriega now has more time to make his case and wait for a decision on his residency status.
"We're pleased and excited that he can stay with his family for another several months, but we have to keep fighting and let people know this is happening to other students every day," says Liz Hamel, organizer for Rights for All People (RAP), which put together the protest.
The Noriega family submitted a petition for residency in 2000 and Gerardo, who was pulled over last year near his house for a broken license-plate light, is still waiting on a decision.
"We think he's an example of why our immigration system is broken," Hamel notes. "His family has followed all the rules, but it shows how our system is backlogged and how people who follow the rules can face separation from their family."
Dozens of people showed up to protest at the Federal Immigration Courthouse, just over a week after around one-hundred people demonstrated prior to Jeanette Vizguerra's deportation hearing; it was also delayed. They then marched west on the 16th Street Mall to the Wells Fargo offices on Broadway, where they continued to make their voices heard. The bank is a target because RAP claims it is the third largest stockholder in GEO, Inc., a company that owns the Aurora Detention Center. The firm made $1.7 billion last year, according to RAP.
Noriega, a DREAM Act student, had hoped to study automotive engineering in college, but he couldn't enroll due to his residency status. Now he faces deportation.
"It's always a nervous time," says Noriega. "It's your life on the line and your future, so you don't know what might happen. And it's not just my case, it's thousands of other students across the nation."
Page down to see more photos of the protest.
More from our Immigration archive: "Gay immigration: What is it like to be gay in El Salvador? Report to the U.N. details the horrors."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.