DACA recipient, UA grad, COVID-19 survivor released from detention center

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - One of Arizona’s first DACA recipients, University of Arizona graduate and COVID-19 survivor was just released from an immigration detention center.

Carlos Martinez received his master’s degree from the UA for computer engineering and has lived in the U.S. since he was 8 years old. Frustrations finding a job motivated an impulse decision to drive to Mexico and visit his grandma.

"As soon as I crossed it was like oh my god," he said. "God slapped me in the face and reality hit."

He returned to the point of entry right away but was immediately detained. His immigration lawyer, Claudia Arevalo, said he was classified as being illegal since he left the U.S. without advanced permission. She said according to the law it appeared as though Martinez was entering the U.S. for the first time and his DACA status didn't matter.

He was put in the Eloy Detention Center last August. Next, the legal work began to free him.

"From the bottom of my heart because we have to prove how the system works," she said. "We have to get him out because we know who he is and we couldn't lose him."

His nightmare became worse as COVID-19 spread between the detainees.

"What is happening to these immigration detention centers?" she said. "They're human and this is a global crisis.

She said the detention center tested a group of 50 detainees and 45 tested positive for COVID-19.

"It got worse and it got worse, we ended up being locked down for 19 straight days," Martinez said. "We would only get out for 20 minutes a day to use the microwave or shower or phone calls."

After surviving COVID-19 and spending nearly one year at the detainment center, good news finally came. Martinez was released and return home July 28.

"My dad is crying and screaming and like 'yeah this is the news we've been waiting for all year' like now we did it, we did it," he said.

Martinez won his case in court and is now a permanent U.S. resident.

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