Blog Archive

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Girlfriend Fights Detention of Her 19-Year-Old Boyfriend

By Gabriela Garcia
January 04, 2011

Tangie Ruiz's MySpace posts read like those of most teenagers: "Summer's almost here! I'm so excited!!!" and "I'm the luckiest girl! I have the most amazing boyfriend!" But suddenly, after months of excited posts about friends, weekend plans, video games, and hanging out at the mall, the posts get dark: “I miss you”; “Please help me get him back.”

That's about the time that Ruiz's 19-year-old boyfriend, Pedro Espinoza, was picked up for riding a bicycle without a light and sent straight to Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona, and into deportation proceedings. He'd been on his way home from Ruiz's house to pick up clothes for a camping trip with her family. Since then, he's been sitting in jail, with no charges, for two months.

The baby-faced Pima Vocational High School student, who was en route to receiving a diploma, was brought to the country by his father when he was just 3 months old, and spent his entire life in Tucson, Arizona. His father was working with immigration lawyers to get Espinoza legal documents, but he died when his son was just four years old. Then his grandmother, a legal resident, took over the process, but also passed away. The petition was canceled. Now, Espinoza faces deportation to Mexico, a country he doesn't remember at all, and where he knows no one and has nowhere to live. "Everyday, he is calling [me] crying, so scared," says his girlfriend. "They barely feed him. He feels like he's going to starve to death."

She hasn't accepted the news without a fight. Fundraising car washes every single weekend, meetings with lawyers who were moved to take the case pro bono, collecting character witness letters from admiring mentors and teachers -- those are the activities that have taken the place of what used to be normal teenage past times. "He's a sweet, caring person who will do anything for everyone," she says. "Its tearing our family apart because my mom and brothers have grown to love Pedro, and now we just hear and see his sadness ... he's ready to give up, he's losing hope."

Before he was placed in detention, Espinoza was a volunteer at Salvation Army and a mentor who coached basketball. He is very religious, and attended church every Sunday. Teachers, who speak highly of him, have been trying to help in every way they can. Goldman and Goldman, the firm handling the case, secured a bond for $3,000 but it's not enough to win his release. Ruiz continues to raise funds. She has started a petition hoping the community can pressure Congress and ICE to intervene and release Pedro from detention so that he can continue his education and volunteer work in the only home he knows.