Teen facing deportation savors freedom after release from prison - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Teen facing deportation savors freedom after release from prison

Bernard Pastor (Source: Facebook) Bernard Pastor (Source: Facebook)
Bernard Pastor holds a press conference Monday morning Bernard Pastor holds a press conference Monday morning

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Guatemalan teen spoke out Monday about a whirlwind weekend that include being released from prison and taking a trip to Washington, D.C.

U.S. immigration authorities freed 18-year-old Bernard Pastor on Friday after nearly a month. He had been jailed after authorities discovered he was in the country illegally following a minor auto accident. His deportation has been put off indefinitely, after his attorney filed a request for deferred status.

"It's been a long, difficult journey, but it's also been a great one, with hardships, but it's also brought me many joys and lessons," said Pastor.

Immigration reform advocates flew Pastor to Washington on Friday to promote legislation called the "Dream Act" that would provide conditions for a path to citizenship for similar undocumented youths.  The measure stalled in the Senate after falling short Saturday by five votes.

"This journey has brought me many opportunities. I know that I am now a part of the movement with the dreamers," he said. "A change is coming to this nation."

Pastor has been in this country since age 3. He graduated from Reading High School in 2010 as an honor student and star soccer player and says he considers himself an American, with few ties left to the homeland he left as child. Students, church members, and immigration advocates rallied publicly on his behalf during his time behind bars, saying his deportation would serve no useful purpose.

Pastor thanked his friends during Monday's press conference, saying he was "shocked" by the outpouring of support.

On Saturday, he prayed with his supporters, then joined a late-night celebration with pizza and Coca-Cola.

"It's just so good to be home," said Pastor, who was also reunited with his parents, who have been keeping a low profile since his arrest.

A federal judge rejected his father's bid for political asylum several years ago.

Word of Pastor's release spread quickly through the southwest Ohio Hispanic community.

"The community of Reading and the city of Cincinnati needs a change," he said. "When a community can change, a city will change. When a city changes, a state changes, and when a state changes, the nation will change.

"It's coming to this country to the point where the people living in this county will no longer lie when they say they are free," he said. "It's coming to a point where we will truly feel we are recognized as Americans."

Immigrant rights groups said they planned to turn up the pressure on the Obama administration to slow deportations, end local police enforcement of immigration laws and look out for the students, many of whom publicly revealed their immigration status over the last few months. A group of college students and graduates in Los Angeles say they plan to take their fight for immigrant rights to the states and the 2012 election.

Pastor and his family are meeting with his attorney in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Copyright 2010 FOX19. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


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