A teen soccer star living in Maryland who earned a college scholarship and was considered “one of the best in the country” was deported back to crime-ridden El Salvador this week, along with his brother.
Lizandro Claros Saravia, 19, set to attend Louisburg College in North Carolina, and 22-year-old Diego were sent back to Central America on Wednesday.
The brothers, who both graduated from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, were arrested on July 28 by ICE officials in Baltimore.
“These kids did nothing wrong — but that is too low a bar. These kids excelled,” teacher Heather Bradley told the Washington Post.
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The family had entered the U.S. illegally in 2009 when they were caught fraudulently using Guatemalan passports and visas under different identities, according to ICE.
ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke told the Washington Post that Lizandro and Diego, who do not have criminal records, would not have been targeted for deportation by the Obama administration in the same way. The new Trump administration has been cracking down on illegal immigration.
“Shame on President Trump for tearing apart hardworking immigrant families,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, tweeted on Wednesday. “We should be focused on MS-13, not scholarship winners.”
Nick Katz of CASA de Maryland, an immigration advocacy-and-assistance organization, said an immigration official told him Lizandro’s college plan was an attempt to remain here indefinitely.
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“It doesn’t matter who you are, what your ties are to the United States, where or not you have a criminal history,” Katz told the Daily News. “They are not allowing people to stay.”
Bourke told the Washington Post that the brothers “were issued a final order of removal by an immigration judge in 2012. That’s why they were removed.”
The brothers were granted a stay in 2013. However, continued applications were rejected. Since 2016, ICE deportation officers in Baltimore have instructed the brothers to purchase tickets for their departure, according to ICE.
“The reality is, they are not using their discretion any longer,” Katz told the Daily News, referring to ICE.
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Lizandro was set to attend two-year Louisburg on a soccer scholarship with the hope of going to a four-year college. He had unique skills on the field, according to coaches. Lizandro played for the Bethesda Soccer Club, according to NBC in Washington.
“He just has a rare natural sense for defending — something you rarely see in youth soccer,” Brett Colton, who previously coached Lizandro, told ABC News. “He’s a fantastic center back and one of the best in the country.”
Instead, Lizandro and his brother are back in El Salvador, where there were 6,600 murders in 2015.
“The system is supposed to deport criminals — I am fine with that,” older brother Jonathan told the Washington Post. “But my brothers did nothing wrong. They’ve had their futures taken from them.”
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It could take more than a decade for the brothers to get back to the U.S., according to the newspaper.
“They have separated my family,” mom Lucia Saravia said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. “We were together, and we were very happy.”
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