Two weeks ago, Eric Balderas, a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, thought his life was over.
The star biology student interested in cancer research was arrested by immigration authorities while trying to board a plane back to Boston from San Antonio, TX. He had lost his passport, and tried to fly with a student ID.
That was a dangerous no-no for Balderas, who in addition to his achievements, is also an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. On Sunday, after pleas by Harvard University, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), sponsor of the DREAM Act, and other high-profile advocates, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Balderas’ deportation would be deferred, and yesterday they announced it would be deferred “indefinitely.”
The Boston Globe reported Balderas’ supporters will work to ensure he can stay and contribute to advancements in modern science.
“We’re just now in process of trying to figure out’’ how to obtain permanent legal status for him “in the long run and secure his future,’’ said one of his pro bono lawyers, Deborah Anker, director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at the university’s law school “It’s not a permanent solution.’’
Balderas’ case was high profile because he’s highly skilled. It’s probable that any potential immigration reform that Congress approves will provide incentives for workers like him (as long as they apply from their home countries). The technology sector has repeatedly called for reform of a system that is blunting its edge. In 2009, Microsoft’s Fred Humphries, Managing Director U.S. Government Affairs wrote:
“High skilled immigration reform is absolutely critical to American economic recovery, and to the success of any comprehensive reform effort. It will take those on all sides of this issue to work together to fix the system.”
But is it American to prioritize some types of workers over others? What about the rest of the undocumented immigrant population that hasn’t made it to Harvard yet…but continues to turn the gears of the American economy?
Either way, Balderas was an exception. According to immigration-foes, amnesty even for superstars like him should not be tolerated.