CHICAGO (CBS) — Jesus Lopez-Gutierrez came to Chicago from Mexico as a child – given relief to stay by the so-called DACA program for kids who had no say in the matter.
Lopez-Gutierrez is all grown up now. And he has found himself embroiled in legal wrangling that put him behind bars for a crime that never stuck, as CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported.
For his 24th birthday, Lopez-Gutierrez and some buddies went camping in Iowa. But Mother Earth gave way to Uncle Sam, and Lopez-Gutierrez has not been home since May.
“Going back to the day, my brother called me, and told me the news,” said Lopez-Gutierrez’s brother, Miguel Lopez. “What was burning in my head was, how am I going to tell my parents?”
The news came from Iowa this May. Jesus Lopez-Gutierrez was pulled over for erratic driving on the way back from the Iowa trip, and police found marijuana.
The charges didn’t stick, but Lopez-Gutierrez wouldn’t breathe the fresh Iowa air for long.
“An officer telling him: ‘When you go outside, you’re going to be in our custody. There’s going to be someone waiting for you,’” Miguel Lopez said.
Born in Mexico, Lopez-Gutierrez was brought to Chicago as a child. In 2013, he became approved under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy – allowing him two years of deferred deportation that can be renewed.
In the years that followed, he failed to renew it.
“In my opinion, they’re just trying to deport him,” Miguel Lopez said.
Seven months after the camping trip, Legal Aid lawyers filed suit – claiming Lopez-Gutierrez is unjustly detained and still DACA eligible. But he can’t apply for renewal unless he is released, and he can’t be released until he renews.
In a nutshell, Miguel Lopez said, authorities are not letting Lopez-Gutierrez out to apply.
And as to those parents he feared telling, Miguel Lopez said, “Now that the holidays are here, they don’t feel like they have a reason to celebrate.”
But a sliver of hope remains.
“It’s a long shot, but we’re doing it,” Miguel Lopez said.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement representatives said they cannot speak on current litigation. But they argument they’re expected to make deals with the lapse of Lopez-Gutierrez’s DACA status four years ago.
In recent years, the rules have gotten tougher for those relying on DACA to stay legal.
There is a federal hearing in the case on Thursday.