Lopez moved to the U.S. illegally with his family when he was just one-and-a-half months old. He grew up in Milwaukie, Ore. and graduated from Rex Putnam High School in Portland, where he served as student body president.
As the Senate voted down the DREAM Act last Tuesday—an act which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented youth—a room full of M.E.Ch.A members and elected officials, as well as University President Wim Wiewel, gathered to listen to Hector Lopez, a college student who was deported to Mexico last month.
Lopez moved to the U.S. illegally with his family when he was just one-and-a-half months old. He grew up in Milwaukie, Ore. and graduated from Rex Putnam High School in Portland, where he served as student body president. Lopez was also a Little League coach and a nominee for the national Alexander Hamilton Leadership Award, and logged 600 community service hours.
After finishing high school, Lopez spent two years at Clackamas Community College. He has also taken classes at Portland State and planned to transfer to the university to earn a bachelor’s in marketing, according to a press release.
“He was by any measure a stellar student and a classic candidate for the DREAM Act,” said Anne Galisky, co-founder of Graham Street Productions and the director of Papers, a documentary film about undocumented youth.
The DREAM Act is intended to provide undocumented immigrants a path to legal residency if they attend college for two years or serve two years in the military. Those who would be eligible must have arrived in the country before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. for five years. In addition, eligible people must have graduated from a U.S. high school or have obtained a GED, and have good moral character.
Lopez was present via speakerphone from Mexico City during the press conference.
“I feel as though I’ve been stripped of my life just because I spent the first month and half of it from another country,” he said. “I would say it is almost inhumane to send someone to a place where they’ve never been, have nowhere to stay and no way to earn an income.”
On Aug. 23, Lopez said he left his house at around 7:45 a.m. to go to the gym. However, he was unaware that there was a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer following him. About four blocks from his house, he was pulled over and told there was a warrant for his arrest.
According to Lopez’s lawyer, Siovhan Sheridan-Ayala, Lopez’s family was ordered deported when he was nine. However, they never received a notice for a hearing. As a result, Lopez was oblivious to the fact that there had been a warrant out against him for 11 years.
The conference coincided with the Senate’s decision on whether to pass the DREAM Act, which was an amendment to a larger defense authorization bill that included the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The bill failed in a 56-43 vote.
For more information about the status of the DREAM Act and how to lend support, visit www.dreamactivist.org. ?