In January of 2008, Tellez was returning to Ohio after a work related trip in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when his vehicle broke down in Belmont County. The county sheriff arrived to help him but upon learning Tellez did not have legal documentation, ICE officials were called and Tellez was arrested. He spent 3 days in jail where he said worries flooded his mind.
“You have a lot to think about in there. Your whole family, your friends, they cross your mind and you think, ‘will I ever get to see them again?’” he said.
Tellez said the idea of being deported to a country he has not visited in 18 years and has few family ties really worried him.
“I was shocked. [If deported to Mexico] I didn’t know what I’d be doing, where I’d be living.”
Tellez said he was 6 years old when he first came to the U.S. in 1994 with his mother and older sister, after his mother fled from a violent relationship with Tellez’s father. They were granted temporary VISAS, he said. After a brief visit to Mexico for a few months, he returned to the U.S. at the age of 8.
Tellez, a 2005 Hamilton High School graduate, dreams of becoming a civil engineer one day.
He was pursuing an undergraduate degree in Engineering at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, but was forced to leave after one year of enrollment because he could not afford the tuition.
He is the main financial provider for his family including his younger brother and sister who are U.S. citizens. In 2009, Tellez became an entrepreneur; He has been working at a construction company he created.
“My mom has arthritis in her feet and ankles and can’t stand or work that much,” Tellez said.
He said he is frustrated and tired of his current limbo status.
“I want to go back to school. I feel like my life is on hold. I work and I have no life. I want to go back to school, so I can have a better job and be smarter,” Tellez said.
If the DREAM ACT or a similar measure were to pass in Congress, Tellez would qualify.
The DREAM ACT bill failed to pass in Congress in 2010 but it offered a pathway to first permanent residency and eventually citizenship for qualifying undocumented immigrants of good moral character brought to the U.S. as children if they attended college or joined the military among other requirements.
Tellez said he hopes the country will pass a DREAM ACT measure or undergo immigration reform in the next year or two.
Tellez has a message of hope for any other undocumented immigrant facing the same battle.
He said “Together we’ll overcome all of this. Put your head up and keep fighting.”