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'My Spirits Have Been Broken,' Says Harvard Student Facing Deportation04:54
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Undocumented Harvard student Eric Balderas, 19, is photographed in Harvard Square in Cambridge. (AP)
Undocumented Harvard student Eric Balderas, 19, is photographed in Harvard Square in Cambridge. (AP)

An immigration judge hears an unusual case next month involving a 19-year-old Harvard University student who is fighting deportation to his native Mexico.

Eric Balderas, a sophomore on full scholarship to Harvard, was detained last week while trying to fly back to Boston after visiting his mother in San Antonio, Texas. Balderas acknowledges he's been in the country illegally since being brought here as a little boy.

"I honestly don't know what to expect right now," Balderas told WBUR's Bob Oakes. "My spirits have been broken."

Balderas' citizenship status came into question when he lost his Mexican passport while visiting his family in San Antonio. He tried to use a temporary Mexican consulate card and his Harvard University I.D. card to board a plane back to Boston, but Transportation Security Administration officials said that wasn't enough.

"They started making phone calls to try and just try to find any records of me in the immigration system, and they were unable to find anything," Balderas said. "After about an hour and a half of making those phone calls, they detained me."

Balderas was able to re-board the plane the next day, and he remains in Boston, awaiting his immigration hearing next month. He says his family knows little about the situation.

It's strange, said Balderas, to be facing deportation to a country he barely knows. He moved to the United States with his family when he was four years old.

"I know (America's) history, I don't even know Mexico's history. This would be a mistake to deport me because I'm one of (the Americans)," Balderas said.

Balderas readily admits that he's not an American citizen — although his family has tried to attain citizenship. "My family has been trying to gain status over 10 years, we've tried to file to gain residency," Balderas said.

Harvard officials say they will try to help him stay in country — and Harvard Law School has offered to take on his case. Balderas hopes this kind of institutional support will help him stay in the country.

"With all of the support I've been getting and the weight of Harvard, I do feel confident that this will go through," Balderas said.

Balderas added that many people in his situation don't happen to have Harvard behind them — but they're no different from him.

"They don't know Mexico, they don't know whichever country they're from," Balderas said. "It's just not right. This is our home and we don't want to leave."

This program aired on June 14, 2010.

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