Oscar Campos was set to spend Christmas as an inmate at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, but on Monday afternoon, he got the best gift he's ever received.
Campos had been in jail for three weeks after being arrested by immigration officers because he is an undocumented immigrant. Campos has lived in the United States for more than 20 years, has three American-born children, owns a legal business, and has paid his taxes faithfully since coming here. He appears to be an upstanding citizen in every regard, except for the fact that he isn't, you know, actually a citizen.
According to the Huffington Post, Campos first came here in 1989, and in 1995, he tried to slip across the border again after visiting his parents in Mexico. Authorities deported him back then, but he was able to cross the border once more. Since his last encounter with immigration officers, Campos was able to live quietly under the radar while still operating a successful, lawful landscaping business.
Authorities caught up with him earlier this month in an office parking lot and took him to the Elizabeth Detention Center, which serves as a holding place for thousands of undocumented immigrants prior to deportation.
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Since his arrest, Campos's family has petitioned and protested for his release, and the man's lawyer says his detention is cruel.
"You have had three kids born here," said immigration lawyer Derek DeCosmo. "You’ve started your business. It's a business you've paid taxes on. ICE might say he broke the law and is absconding, but from Oscar's perspective, that’s out of line."
President Obama seems to agree, and two years ago, he urged immigration authorities to restrain from deporting law-abiding undocumented citizens, especially those with American-born children.
So on Monday afternoon, when Campos was sitting down for lunch with other inmates, a prison guard approached him and told him he was free to go.
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"I think that was a, how you say, miracle," said Campos, as reported by the Huffington Post. "This is the best Christmas present I have in my life."
The New Jersey branch of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, said in a statement, "After evaluating his case, and reviewing the totality of the circumstances, ICE released Mr. Campos from custody yesterday."
Campos will be able to stay in the country for at least a year while he pleads his case to the government to let him remain here for the rest of his life.