US-based Israeli ‘dreamer’ arrested, jailed after wrong turn into Mexico

US-based Israeli ‘dreamer’ arrested, jailed after wrong turn into Mexico

College student Orr Yakobi, who has been living in the US since he was 7, spends almost a week in detention for violating terms of DACA program

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Orr Yakobi earlier this year (Facebook)
Orr Yakobi earlier this year (Facebook)

An Israeli living in the US was arrested and jailed for almost a week for violating the terms of his immigration arrangements, after taking a wrong turn and accidentally entering Mexico. He was finally released on Friday.

Orr Yakobi, 22, is in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, an immigration program allowing minors who were brought to the US illegally to remain there under some restrictions. Under the terms of his stay, Yakobi, a student at the University of California San Diego who has been living in the US since he was 7 years old, is not allowed to leave the US.

But last Sunday, together with a friend, Yakobi, mistakenly entered Mexico when taking a wrong turn after visiting a local mall. He was arrested and spent several days at Otay Mesa Detention Center.

“The night before []he was finally freed], I emailed the information back and forth to ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement ] with some of our arguments as to why they feel he should be released,” Jacob Sapochnick, Yakobi’s lawyer, told The Triton, a university newspaper. “I guess it was a combination of everything: the political pressure, the common sense that he shouldn’t be in jail.”

Yakoby’s friend, Ryan Hakim, said they were at an outlet mall in San Ysidro Sunday, when they mistakenly drove on southbound Interstate 5 instead of northbound Interstate 805. “Once we got onto the ramp, we couldn’t turn around. We couldn’t pull over,” he told NBC San Diego. “We were forced into Mexico.”

Hakim, who was driving, said he and his Israeli friend had no intention of crossing the border. “We’re freaking out about his documentation. How is he going to get back in? How are we going to get back in,” he said.

Indeed, when the pair tried to return to US territory, US Customs and Border Protection officials stopped the car and examined Yakobi’s papers, and subsequently took him into custody. For several days, he and his lawyer feared he could be deported, weeks before finishing his university degree. Yakobi, a math and computer science major, needs to complete two classes before he can graduate and was already working as freelance programmer.

An online petition protesting the Israeli national’s release “from his unjust detainment” garnered nearly 8,000 signatures.

Participants of the DACA program are called “dreamers” due to the DREAM Act after which it was named. The Trump administration last year decided to nix the program, drawing sharp criticism from civil rights groups and also many Jewish groups.

Immigrants and supporters demonstrate during a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in front of the White House on September 5, 2017 in Washington DC. (AFP/ Eric BARADAT)

Sapochnick, Yakobi’s lawyer, told the Triton that says that after a few days of getting his bearings, Orr is interested in hosting a panel about his experience in order to advocate for other students covered by DACA. As for Orr’s DACA status, Sapochnick says that there should be no threat of termination.

“He doesn’t have a denial. There’s nothing in the paperwork. As far as we know, it’s a clean release,” he said.

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