Uriel Alberto might be released soon, but his freedom might also be temporary.
A judge granted an immigration bond Wednesday to Alberto, a Winston Salem resident in this country illegally who along with two others interrupted a state legislative hearing on immigration Feb. 29.
Lawyers say his battle to remain in a country hes lived in since he was 7 years old remains an uphill one.
Had the court not granted bond citing flight risk or criminal history he could have been sent to an immigration detention center in Georgia as early as today. He could instead remain free in North Carolina as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency continues deportation proceedings.
We expect that he will be free before too long, his attorney, Joe DiPierro, said Wednesday evening.
Alberto, 24, Cynthia Lizabeth Martinez, 21, and Estephania Lizbeth Mijangos-Lopez, 20, were arrested for outbursts at a select committee on immigration hearing, during which some state representatives blamed crime and economic woes on illegal immigration.
Immigration holds on Martinez and Mijangos-Lopez were lifted as they were not ICE priorities. Those priorities include recent border-crossing and flagrant or repeated violation of immigration law.
But another ICE priority, illegal immigrants with a criminal record, kept Alberto in custody.
In 2009, a charge for an assault on a female was voluntarily dismissed by the state. But in 2008, he was convicted of driving while intoxicated. Alberto claimed his breathalyzer indicated a blood alcohol content of .04; half the legal limit for those over 21. However, he was 20 at the time and under the legal age for consuming alcohol. He also was charged with failing to appear at some traffic court dates.
While in the Wake County jail, Alberto went on a 10-day hunger strike from jail to raise awareness of people like himself, alien to Mexico since leaving as a child, but an illegal resident of the U.S.
Allowing him bond will not affect his Feb. 29 disorderly conduct charge for which he has already posted $2,000 bond nor his deportation proceedings, although his lawyers say it could draw them out somewhat.
Courts generally grant longer continuances for people that are not detained, said Becky Moriello, his immigration attorney.
Moriello said allowing Alberto to remain in the country he grew up in will be tougher. There are two possible avenues.
One is getting a court to grant a cancellation of removal. Alberto would have to prove his deportation would cause a suffering of extraordinary and unusual hardship. Congress imposes a limit of 4,000 of such cancellations each year. Moriello said most successful cases involve someone in this country illegally, who is the parent of a U.S.-born child who is either disabled or suffers from a substantial medical condition.
Alberto does have a child in Florida, and Moriello said his record doesnt disqualify him from character requirements.
If he were to file for cancellation it wouldnt be frivolous, said Moriello, while conceding that his child being healthy and in Florida would not help the argument.
The other way to cease deportation proceedings would be for ICE to close the case at its own discretion. Under the Obama administration, however, deportation rates have risen substantially, and ICE is closing very few cases, she said.
Youve got to be perfect, Moriello said.