A 26-year-old San Jose man who was just released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention on Tuesday was joined by supporters outside the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco Wednesday morning as they called for federal immigration reform.
Jesus Ruiz Diego, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico with his family when he was four years old, graduated from high school and wanted to join the U.S. Marines but was ineligible because of his immigration status.
Ruiz Diego was then deported to Mexico in 2008 when his family's house was raided, and after he returned to the U.S. two months later, he was detained again this September at his workplace, a sheet metal company in San Jose.
But after actions that included a rally in front of ICE offices in San Francisco last month and a petition drive that gathered about 5,000 signatures, Ruiz Diego was set free Tuesday night -- albeit with a tracking device on his ankle.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Ruiz Diego was released under the agency's Intensive Supervision Program pending a future hearing before an immigration judge.
Kice said the decision on whether to release undocumented immigrants while their cases are pending "is based upon a thorough assessment of each individual's circumstances, including the person's criminal and immigration history."
Ruiz Diego said he hoped his story inspires Feinstein and other elected officials to enact legislative changes "not just for me but for other people in my situation."
He said, "We were basically raised here, then thrown into another country that they say is your country but it doesn't feel like home."
He said, "This is my home, whether I'm here legally or not."
Ruiz Diego's attorney, Niloufar Khonsari, said her client should be eligible for a federal policy change announced by President Barack Obama in June that provides a two-year deferral of deportation for people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and meet other requirements.
However, because he was previously deported in 2008, Ruiz Diego's eligibility for the program remains up in the air and could be decided in the coming weeks and months, Khonsari said.
She said people like Ruiz Diego are examples of the need to enact permanent immigration reform.
"He was doing good for this country. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, the first in his neighborhood to get a really good job," she said. "He could be a role model in his community."