Why we need the Dream Act: Jonathan Chavez | Arkansas Blog

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why we need the Dream Act: Jonathan Chavez

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 5:56 PM

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Just one more thing before we head home tonight:

Jonathan Chavez is a popular student in the Honors College at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Or at least he should be.

At the moment, the senior is being held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and faces deportation to Peru.

Chavez was born in Peru but was brought as a youngster to Rogers, where his parents had work tourist visas. He graduated from high school there with a 4.0 GPA, friends say. He is only two semesters away from graduating from the U of A. He began a naturalization process at 17, but he turned 18 before it could be complete.

Chavez was detained by ICE agents when he got off a bus in Florida, where he had traveled at Christmas to visit his mother. He was asked for his papers and taken to a facility in Fort Lauderdale. ICE round-ups are going on in areas with high Hispanic populations on the East Coast.

That was four weeks ago, says Elaine Edwards, who gave Chavez voice lessons when he was a high school senior and has advocated for him since, helping him with college applications and now providing moral support through the Facebook page “Praying for Jonathan Chavez." The page provides his address and was used to generate a letter-writing campaign to halt his deportation. Chavez’ lawyer, Sandy Lambert, told U of A assistant general counsel Scott Varady that she received “glowing” letters about him that were “unparalleled in her experience,” Varady said. To date, the U of A has had no formal comment on Chavez. Varady said the university did not know he was undocumented.

Chavez has a deportation hearing on Thursday. Edwards said his lawyer will ask for “deferred action,” to allow Chavez to graduate.

Raised and educated in Rogers. A student in the university’s honors college. A young man who would be a credit to Arkansas. And here’s the kicker: Chavez' parents are currently living legally in the U.S. His father is Both parents are married to an American. Send their son to Peru?

Had the Dream Act passed, Chavez would have been eligible to apply for citizenship after graduating from high school and Arkansas would have another high-achieving citizen to brag about.

Edwards said Chavez is not complaining. He said, in fact, that his was the best Christmas he’s ever had, because he was able to hold Bible study classes with others incarcerated there, even translating Bible passages. Chavez is a member of Christ on Campus at Fayetteville.

Chavez has a plan if he is deported, Edwards said. He wants to continue his singing; his voice is “magnificent,” she said. She’d like it to be heard in America.

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