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Tucson DACA recipient contracts COVID-19 in Eloy Detention Center

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jul 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-26 20:31:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — One of the first in the U.S. to be granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Carlos Martinez contracted COVID-19 while detained for an immigration violation.

He contracted the virus on June 14, according to his mother Sylvia Baldenegro.

Martinez has since recovered, but the Arizona Dream Act Coalition said he should not still be detained if immigration officials can't guarantee his safety.

"We feel very bad. We haven’t slept. All we think about is the destiny of our son. We always think about what’s next," said Salvador Martinez, Carlos' father.

It all started in August 2019, when Carlos crossed the southern border into Nogales, Sonora.

Crossing the border is something DACA recipients are not allowed to do without permission from the government.

"It’s painful for us to see our son in detention. We can’t hug him or support him. We can’t do anything. Only the authorities can do something for my son," he added.

Martinez is a computer engineer who grew up in southwest Tucson. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2005 with a master's degree.

He was one of the first to be granted DACA in 2012. He told KGUN9 then, that the protection made his accomplishments meaningful.

"There was this big wall that was in front of me after I graduated with my masters that I couldn't see the future," explained Martinez. "I'm somebody now.”

His lawyer explained his decision to cross the border was made out of frustration when his dream employer told him he couldn't work for them.

“I’ve spent 29 years here. If this country doesn’t appreciate me — he made it all the way to the top— and give me the documents I need. I can find my future in Mexico. He realized he made a mistake," said Claudia Arevalo.

After 45 minutes in Nogales, Sonora he turned himself into an officer at the port of entry, where his lawyer says he was classified as an 'arriving alien.' He then was taken to the Eloy Detention Center.

After months of uncertainty, a judge decided to cancel in removal in February.

"However, it lasted very little because the government said ‘you’re honor, we’re going to appeal this case. I do not think we should grant this person cancelation of removal," explained Claudia Arevalo.

With an appeal still in progress, he contracted COVID-19.

“I received a letter. It was July 8- it says thank you very much. I am very well with my health from coronavirus. You were right. Those were the most difficult times of my life, but I will not give up. I know that God has plans for me. Thank you very much for your support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart," read Arevalo.

More than 250 detainees in Eloy have contracted the virus.

"What we know is that he was with a group of people. They are in sections. So, for his section, there were fifty [people]. When they started testing, 45 tested positive,” claimed Arevalo.