ONLY ON KRON4: UC Berkeley student detained by immigration officials near Mexican border speaks by phone

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BERKELEY (KRON) — The UC Berkeley spring semester starts this Tuesday, but Luis Mora will not be making it.

The pre-law student is still in ICE custody near the Mexican border after he was stopped by agents following his visit with family over winter break.

KRON4 spoke with Mora exclusively on Friday.

Mora’s supporters are not giving up weeks later.

He’s still in jail, which his attorney says is unusual for someone without a criminal history, so they hope to have him released at his bond hearing next week.

Twenty-year-old Luis Mora makes his daily phone call to his immigration attorney with the East Bay community law center.

After two weeks, he remains in custody in a prison near San Diego.

“The yard is bigger, definitely bigger, the showers..there are more showers, but in my opinion, they’re less private,” Mora said by phone.

His attorney says Mora was detained by customs and border protection officers near a checkpoint 30 miles from the border when he made a wrong turn after visiting family in Mexico with his girlfriend.

The UC Berkeley pre-law student was arrested for overstaying a visa he got when he was about 12 years old. His parents have since moved back to Mexico while Mora continued his education.

Mora’s attorney says it’s unusual for an undocumented immigrant with no criminal history to be detained this long and points to a more aggressive approach by immigration agents under the Trump administration.

“There’s been rampant enforcement against immigrants regardless of their status, regardless of whether they’re a flight risk, or a criminal or a national security threat,” Immigration Attorney Prerna Lal said. “I think everyone is being treated similarly now.”

Meanwhile, fellow Cal students who launched an online campaign using hashtag #freeluis have collected more than $12,000 for his bail.

“Of course it’s a little bit overwhelming because as an undocumented student myself, you wouldn’t expect such high support,” Mora said. “Nonetheless, it has given me in a way some sort of hope.”

Mora now anxiously awaits a bond hearing next week.

He, his lawyer, and his supporters remain hopeful that Mora will be set free to continue the fight in court–but from outside prison walls with backing from local politicians.

In the meantime, because Mora is expected to miss class, his attorney makes light of the situation, saying as a pre-law student himself, this is a first-hand lesson that may earn him extra credit.

Lal says he’s been asked by agents to help translate for other detainees during his stay at the prison.

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