PORTLAND – A 25-year-old Portland man fighting deportation to Guatemala joined other undocumented immigrants Thursday during a small rally in Monument Square to push for federal immigration reform.

Selvin Arevalo, who came to this country as a teenager, was detained by federal immigration agents for seven months before being released Friday on a $2,000 bond. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began deportation proceedings against Arevalo in April after the undocumented immigrant fled a minor motor vehicle accident.

“I’m here,” Arevalo said. “But I’m still in the deportation process.”

Arevalo and other immigrants dressed in caps and gowns for the rally and said their best hope for becoming U.S. citizens and attending college is the passage of the federal DREAM Act, also known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors bill. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children to achieve legal permanent residency and citizenship if they meet certain conditions, such as attending college or serving in the military.

Arevalo’s quest for citizenship has been taken up by the Student Immigration Movement, which organized the Portland rally to put pressure on Maine’s senators to support the bill.

There are about 1 million young immigrants in the country who arrived here as children and could face deportation from the only home they know, said Kyle de Beausset, a reform advocate with the organization.

“This is their country. This is their home,” de Beausset said. “We really need Sen. (Susan) Collins and Sen. (Olympia) Snowe to step forward.”

De Beausset said the best hope for passage of the bill is for it to reach a vote in the next month because the newly elected members of Congress are expected to be less supportive of the changes in the new year.

For Arevalo, being set free last week made him more hopeful, although he was nervous Thursday about speaking out for reforms.

“It was very stressful to be there for seven months,” he said of the jails in Maine and Massachusetts where he was detained with other immigrants.

Arevalo was a few months away from getting his high school equivalency diploma when he was detained. “My dream is one day to go to college,” he said. “I want to study computer science.”

Arevalo said he does not yet know when his case will reach the courts. He has applied for asylum in hopes of staying in Maine, but said the federal reform is his best hope for becoming a citizen.

Renata Teodoro of Boston arrived from Brazil with her family when she was 6, she said. She had planned to go to college after winning a scholarship, but later was told she could not use the aid because she was undocumented.

Her family was forced to leave the country in 2007, but she managed to stay, working and paying for college courses in Boston, Teodoro said. She said she is taking the risk of speaking publicly because there are so many young people in the same position.

“If I don’t speak about the DREAM Act, then nobody will know our stories,” she said. “My family was silent for 15 years and then they were deported.”

Katherine Asuncion of Lynn, Mass., said she came from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was a child and grew up feeling at risk of getting deported. Now she hopes Congress will open the door to becoming a citizen and looks forward to getting a college degree.

“I know one day I will go to college, even if I have to wait like five years,” she said.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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