Julio Martinez, 19, sat in a Wisconsin jail Thursday morning, fearing he would be deported to his native Honduras because his mother missed an immigration hearing a decade ago.
But later in the day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released the 2009 graduate of Franklin County High School, and he headed back to Kentucky.
Martinez's attorney, Rachel Newton of Louisville, credited his release to "tremendous pressure" from family, friends and students from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, which Martinez attended in the fall. He was arrested March 17 at his job at Lexington's Amazon warehouse.
"This case speaks to multiple failings of our immigration system and several of the many ways in which the system is broken," said Newton.
Newton said that Martinez's mother fled Honduras in fear of her life and that Martinez "was victimized by circumstances in which he had no say in what was happening to him. He had no say in coming to this country. He had no say in missing his court date."
On Monday, about 40 people protested in front of U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's Lexington office in an effort to bring attention to Martinez' situation. Newton said Chandler, Sen. Jim Bunning, and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin all made inquiries on Martinez's behalf.
Durbin, a Democrat, is the chief proponent for The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants who arrived as children and graduated from U.S. high schools to earn conditional permanent residency.
On Thursday morning, Newton filed a motion to rescind the order to remove Martinez from the United States and reopen the case. She said ICE officials immediately filed a response saying they didn't oppose the motion.
Martinez now must wait for a Texas judge to rule on whether to reopen his case. If the ruling goes against him, Martinez probably will be taken back into custody, Newton said. In any event, he must visit the ICE office in Louisville in May, she said.
ICE officials did not respond to questions about the case.
Newton said Martinez's aunt drove from Kentucky to Wisconsin to bring Martinez home Thursday.
Martinez, whose full name is Julio Cesar Martinez-Burgos had just turned 9 when his mother, Diana Burgos, missed an immigration hearing.
Burgos brought Martinez and his sister to the United States more than a decade ago, but immigration officials arrested them in Brownsville, Texas, Newton told the Herald-Leader last week.
The family was released and ordered to appear at a hearing in Texas, but his mother, who had moved to Kentucky, didn't appear.
Newton said that Burgos had helped a friend in Honduras who was a victim of domestic violence and that the friend's husband threatened to kill Burgos.
Burgos is still being sought by immigration officials.
After graduating last year from Franklin County High School, Martinez took classes at BCTC and got a part-time job at Amazon to help pay his tuition. But when his mother and sister became sick, Martinez began working more hours at Amazon and didn't re-enroll at BCTC.
Newton said Martinez knows no other life outside Kentucky and would be deported to a country where he knows no one.
"Where would he go?" asked Newton. "His family is here."