Immigration officials in Texas released a young man late Thursday who is a recipient of Deferred Action, or DACA, the federal program that provides young immigrants a temporary work permit and protections from deportation.
Josué Romero, 19, was arrested by San Antonio police on Feb. 14, and a day later, transferred to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where he faced deportation.
“I was in chains in a van, just one step away from being put on a plane [to Honduras] and then suddenly the van turned around,” Romero told the Univision affiliate in San Antonio.
Local police arrested Romero on Feb. 14 for alleged possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, a class B misdemeanor, according to county records.
ICE says Romero was in their custody because he was issued a final order of removal by an immigration judge on Dec. 3, 2004—when he was seven years old and years before he passed background checks required by DACA.
The agency declined further comment on Romero's release.
Romero said he now has to check-in with ICE, describing a probation-like process. His representatives said they had never heard of such a process.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of a person with DACA who has to report themselves to ICE,” Jonathan Ryan, director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in San Antonio, told Fusion. “It’s not probation because there wasn’t a crime, there wasn’t a judge’s decision, that happens after a judge’s decision."
Romero said he was losing hope that he would be able to remain in the U.S. when he was being transported in the van to ICE, but says he’s relieved to be free.
"I'm really happy, having the opportunity to see my family again, being able to see my friends, I can't describe how I feel,” he said.