Friday Harbor man gets deportation reprieve

A Friday Harbor man has been given one year to get an attorney, build his case and get a green card so he can stay in the United States.

Israel Aguayo, 19, was born in Mexico but moved with his family to the U.S. when he was 6. He attended Friday Harbor High School and Griffin Bay High School and received his GED. He is married to the former Tara Melbourne of Friday Harbor and is now attending a community college in Tacoma.

On May 21, 2007, he was one of 11 islanders taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard for possible immigration violations while returning from a construction job site on Stuart Island.

Aguayo was detained on illegal-immigration charges. His family raised $7,500 for bail in the 24-hour window they were given. In April, he appeared before a federal immigration judge in Tacoma and was given one year to get an attorney, build his case and get a green card so he can stay in the United States.

Aguayo has applied for a visa to keep him here temporarily, as his attorney recommended, but his case is still pending.

"He said to me, 'I'm OK, I just don't want to go back to Mexico,'" his mother, Alicia Aguayo-Lopez, said. "For now, he's really happy. At least he has a year to go back and appear at court."

Aguayo could not be reached for comment.

Aguayo's quest to obtain citizenship and stay in the U.S. spurred letters of support from members of the community.

Aguayo has been a resident of the U.S. since "he was six years of age," the Rev. Raymond Heffernan, pastor of St. Francis Church, wrote. "His three younger brothers were born in the USA and are citizens of this country. To deport Israel now would be to banish him to a country and a way of life he has never known. In addition, it would be a gut-wrenching breakup of his family."

Heffernan asked the court to "apply the spirit of the law and not its cold-blooded letter."

— With writing by intern Madison Leiren and editor Richard Walker.

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