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Illegal immigrant faces home invasion charges

/ Source: The Associated Press

A young illegal immigrant who became a cause celebre in Minnesota after secretly living in a high school for weeks has been arrested here on home invasion charges, months after he was supposed to have left the country.

Francisco Javier Serrano, 22, had waved goodbye to supporters and journalists who saw him off at the Minneapolis airport in January, but he apparently never boarded his plane for his home country of Mexico.

Two weeks ago, police arrested him after finding him with a knife in an apartment in Boston’s North End, struggling with the tenant, who was unharmed, The Boston Globe reported Thursday. He remained in Suffolk County Jail facing home invasion charges and eventual deportation.

Serrano, who overstayed a 2002 tourist visa to live with his father and attend high school in suburban Minneapolis, was embraced by Minnesotans after he was discovered sleeping in the school’s auditorium in January 2005 and told how he had spent weeks hiding there, foraging for cafeteria food and showering in the locker room.

Students handed out “Free Francisco” T-shirts, and a developer gave him a place to live and hired an immigration lawyer for him.

Last fall, a federal judge ruled that Serrano must leave the country but gave him until Jan. 5 to do so. That day Serrano went to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but his plane ticket was never used.

Serrano’s mother said he had fallen in love with the U.S. and wanted to go to college and get a job that would let him send money to his family in Mexico. When his father moved from Minnesota to Connecticut, Serrano followed, but the two had a falling out, Guadalupe Flores told the Globe from her home in Mexico City.

“He decided to live his life on his own,” she said, crying. “But he did it very badly.”

A pretrial hearing was set for April 28. The charges against Serrano probably will be reduced to breaking and entering because he has no history of violence and did not hurt the tenant, said David Procopio, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney.