CINCINNATI — A veteran immigration attorney has asked U.S. authorities to hold off on deporting a top high school student to Guatemala after police investigating a minor car accident discovered he was undocumented.
Cleveland attorney David Leopold says there is no urgency to remove 18-year-old Bernard Pastor from the country where he has lived since age 3. Leopold heads the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
"There's no pressing need to deport him," Leopold said Monday. "There's a lot of good about this kid. He's done great in high school, he's been active in the community, active in his church."
Leopold wants more time to study the case, which he took without fee after being contacted by Pastor's supporters and immigration reform advocates. He first met with Pastor last week in a Mount Gilead, Ohio, detention center and has filed a formal request that his deportation be deferred.
Harold Ort, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency wouldn't comment on an individual case.
ICE agreed last month to delay the deportation for a few weeks, after urging by officials including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Cincinnati.
Pastor told The Cincinnati Enquirer in an interview last month that he considers himself an American, speaks little Spanish and hardly knows anyone in Guatemala. Police investigating a minor traffic accident last month discovered he was undocumented, leading to his jailing and the deportation order.
Pastor's father is a Pentecostal minister whose claim that he faced persecution in Guatemala was denied by a federal judge several years ago. His parents' whereabouts weren't clear Monday. The Enquirer reported earlier they were in hiding after his arrest.
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Backers call Pastor a poster child for the proposed "Dream Act" being debated in Congress. The legislation would provide a path to legal status for illegal immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16, who have been here for five years, graduated from high school or gained an equivalency degree, and who join the military or attend college.
Opponents say passing the legislation would encourage more illegal immigration at a time when many Americans are looking for jobs.
More than 100 supporters, including religious and civic leaders and former Reading High classmates, turned out for a Dec. 4 rally on Pastor's behalf. Several people also turned out to show opposition to the Dream Act or amnesty for illegal immigrants.