An undocumented Harvard University student is no longer facing deportation to Mexico after being detained nearly two weeks ago by immigration authorities at a Texas airport, officials said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said late Friday that they would not pursue the deportation of Eric Balderas. The 19-year-old was detained in June after he tried to use a university ID card to board a plane from San Antonio to Boston.
Mario Rodas, a friend of Balderas, said Balderas was granted deferred action, which can be used to halt deportation based on the merits of a case. Rodas said Balderas learned the news Saturday morning from his lawyer.
"He's very excited and ready to live a normal life," Rodas said. "He's ready to move forward."
Rodas said Balderas will be applying for a United States work permit and will keep trying to get permanent immigration status. He said that Balderas' lawyers have advised him not to comment while the case is pending.
Balderas, who previously had used a Mexican passport to board planes but recently lost it, told The Associated Press that he became despondent and thought he was being deported to Mexico immediately after he was detained June 7. But he was released the next day.
According to a Facebook page set up to highlight his case, Balderas was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his family at age 4. He said he doesn't remember living in Mexico.
He's studying molecular and cellular biology at Harvard and hopes to become a cancer researcher. He said he qualified for Harvard's privately funded scholarship package.
Harvard officials threw their support behind Balderas after his detainment.
"Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work, and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interest in making a difference in the world," said Christine Heenan, Harvard's vice president of public affairs and communications.
The case also sparked a buzz on social media sites and among student immigrant activists who see the Balderas situation as the ideal test case to push the proposed DREAM act — a federal bill that would allow illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship through college enrollment or military service.