355 Days After He Was Detained, and Weeks After Recovering From COVID-19, a DACA Poster Child Is Released

Mother Jones illustration; courtesy of Sylvia Baldenegro

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On Tuesday night, less than two weeks after I wrote about Carlos Martinez, a literal poster child for DACA who had spent the last 11 months at the Eloy Detention Center—where he lost DACA and fell ill with COVID-19—he was released from ICE custody. Martinez made his release public Wednesday on Facebook by posting photos with his parents at their Tucson, Arizona, home:

Thank you God!!! After spending my last 355 days in an Immigration detention center, I am finally free and back home with my family. After 30 years living in The United States fighting for a Green Card, I have won my case and it is an honor to be called United States Permanent Resident. God works in mysterious ways.

Martinez was one of the first people in Arizona to get DACA back in 2012. That year and again in 2015, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) brought a large poster-board portrait of Martinez to the Senate floor to help illustrate the need to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from Republican efforts to kill it. Martinez, 38, has been living in the United States since he was 8 years old. He came with his brother and his parents. He excelled in school, got multiple degrees from the University of Arizona in computer engineering, and worked for IBM. When I spoke to his parents for the story, his father’s words stuck with me: “I felt so proud to see my son graduating from the university. Imagine how that feels as a parent—it was beautiful to see my two sons graduate. And now it’s too painful to go to this jail and see my son in a brown uniform with all the other people in prison. Imagine that.”

And this whole nightmare happened because of a poorly thought-out decision to take a brief detour into Mexico last August. Martinez drove south to his grandmother’s hometown, realized what a big deal it was that he left the United States, and 45 minutes later he was back at the port of entry trying to explain what had happened. 

Last time I talked with Martinez, he’d called me from inside the ICE detention facility and told me he wasn’t giving up. I tried calling his parents house on Wednesday to see if I could catch him and hear how he was feeling, but nobody answered. I guess they do have a lot going on at the house right now.

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