Guatemalan Oakland man given 2 weeks to leave US

May 25, 2010 5:28:53 PM PDT
A 22-year-old illegal Guatemalan immigrant lost his chance at asylum Tuesday after immigration officials in San Francisco gave him two weeks leave the country.

Mario Luis Martin Mendoza walked into the federal immigration offices in San Francisco Tuesday not knowing whether he would be allowed to walk out.

The last time he was ordered to appear for a similar hearing, he was 14-years-old. He was ordered to appear in Spanish, a language the Mayan Indian did not speak at the time.

"I hope they give me the opportunity to stay here," he said Tuesday.

Mendoza walked out with his lawyer, but it was not the ending they were hoping for.

"Immigration, ICE, still intends to remove him, but they didn't do so today, for which we're grateful," said Mendoza's lawyer, Nancy Powell.

Now, Mendoza has to return to the immigration offices on June 8 to prove that he bought a ticket back to his homeland otherwise he could be taken into custody.

In Guatemala, Mendoza says his family faced persecution because his father sided with guerillas during the country's civil unrest. His mother lives in Alabama and was recently granted political asylum. Mendoza hoped for the same, but ICE officials say Mendoza has no legal basis to be in the United States.

"A lot of these people do come into the country here and they take our jobs. They work for low wages and that sort of thing, puts Americans out of work. So, I've got to feel sorry for my own people first," says Steve Kemp, a member of the Golden Gate Minute Men.

For now, Mendoza returns to the modest room he rents in Oakland, a home he shares with six other people. For him, the small bed and his few belongings are part of the better life he was looking for, the life he hopes to not leave.

"All I can do is hope," he says. "We'll see what happens in two weeks, if I stay or if I go."


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