Rene Rivas was about to be deported in the dark of night, at 4 a.m.
But that was last week.
Seven days later, on Monday, the undocumented immigrant was released from an immigration lock-up and allowed to work legally and live openly with his wife and children in Miami for a year.
The roller-coaster story of this 41-year-old construction worker from Durango, Mexico, is anything but common as Congress debates how to handle undocumented immigrants like Rivas.
“It’s rare,” said Rivas’ attorney, Elizabeth Amaran. “But it does happen.”
An essential ingredient: the involvement of U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson.
Carlos Rivas practically begged for help, telling lawmakers just after 9 p.m. that his dad was to be deported within seven hours.
The crowd gasped. Wilson’s office called Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The deportation was delayed.
The Rivas case was then reviewed. Rivas was allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds.
Two of Rivas’s children are U.S. citizens, born here in the dozen years since the family took root in this country as undocumented immigrants. His two older children, including Carlos, qualify for legal temporary residency for educational reasons.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it,” said Carlos Rivas. “They gave him a whole year. But he still has to go back to Mexico. But in that year, we’re going to do as much as we can.”
In a written statement, Wilson said she felt it "is unconscionable that a father of four would be threatened with deportation with just hours’ notice. No person—especially a parent with dependent children—should be subjected to such a rushed and unreasonable process."