Molina Mendoza to meet with immigration officials
DURHAM -- Felipe de Jesus Molina Mendoza, the 2009 Riverside High School graduate seeking asylum, will appear before immigration officials in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Molina Mendoza, 25, is facing deportation for being in the country illegally.
He was scheduled to be deported to Mexico on Tuesday, but his removal from the country was put on hold after U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to stay the order while Molina Mendoza appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
On Monday, Molina Mendoza said he is trying to remain upbeat about his meeting with immigration officials in Charlotte.
But he still worries that he might be detained after he meets with the ICE officer who will determine whether he can return to Durham.
“At this point, it’s 50-50,” Molina Mendoza said of his chances of being detained while he appeals the deportation order. “I’m trying to prepare mentally for both.”
Molina Mendoza said he is also worried that the ICE officer might decide not to honor last week’s decision to put his deportation on hold.
“They’ve done it in the past to other people,” Molina Mendoza said. “Hopefully, they’ll respect the decision.”
Alerta Migratoria NC, an immigrant advocacy group that has been supporting Molina Mendoza, said Monday evening that supporters will rally outside the immigration offices before the meeting Tuesday morning.
Molina Mendoza, who is gay, returned to Mexico to attend college after he graduated from Riverside High because he could not pay the out-of-state tuition here.
He fled Mexico after he received anti-gay threats and could not count on police to protect him.
He said living an openly gay lifestyle in Mexico led to taunts, beer bottles being thrown at him and his boyfriend and threats of rape.
Molina Mendoza first tried to cross the border in Tamaulipas, Texas, only to sign a voluntary deportation because he didn’t think he had any choice.
Later, he learned about political asylum and decided to try to come to the United States again in 2014, going directly to a border crossing gate in Otay Mesa, Calif.
He said he was detained for three days in a “cooler,” not allowed to bathe or brush his teeth, and then sent to a detention center. He said he stayed there for three months before his family found a U.S. sponsor and paid $7,500 for his release pending his asylum claim.
An ICE spokesman has said Molina Mendoza is a priority for the agency, which enforces federal immigration laws, because he had already been deported once.