What began earlier this year as one young man's quest to stay in the U.S. has grown into a movement, with nearly 200 demonstrators rallying on behalf of Rigo Padilla in Chicago last week and faxes and text messages being sent to Washington with pleas to spare him from being sent back to Mexico.
Padilla, 21, hasn't seen the country of his birth since he was 6 -- making him one of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who arrived to the U.S. illegally as tag-alongs to their parents.
His fight against an order to leave the country by Dec. 16 has made him a symbol to Immigration activists yearning for passage of the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would grant conditional legal status to undocumented students who arrived to the U.S. as children.
Rigo is currently a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He's lived in the states since he was six years old. He arrived here with his parents from Mexico. His parents crossed the border illegally. That makes them illegal immigrants and, by extension, so to does it make Rigo Padilla.
In March, Padilla was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and driving without a license. Upon the arrest, his immigration status was discovered, records forwarded to ICE, and he's now scheduled for deportation on December 16.
In the interim, he's become a flashpoint for both sides of the debate. Those that favor "undocumented workers" have made Padilla the symbol of sympathy for those struggling to make the American dream. He's even become a cause celebre for the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would legalize most children of illegal aliens. Presumably, such an act would keep Padilla in the country.
Opponents of illegal immigration refer to Padilla as a criminal worthy of no sympathy. To them, he's a crimal as well as an illegal alien and his deportation has plenty of merit. The case has caught the attention of the media, local politicians, and U.S. Congress people. It's a new flashpoint in the illegal immigration debate.