Two brothers from the D.C. area were deported to El Salvador Wednesday, the same day the youngest sibling was scheduled to check in to college.
Lizandro Claros-Saravia, 19, and Diego Claros-Saravia, 22, grew up in Maryland and both of them graduated from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg.
Lizandro played soccer for the Bethesda Soccer Club and had received a partial scholarship to attend Louisburg College in North Carolina in the fall. Diego was set to go with him and work to help his brother pay for the rest of his college expenses.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained the brothers on Friday after Lizandro called ICE to let them know of the move and to request that his yearly check-ins with the agency be moved to an office in North Carolina, NBC News reported.
They were deported five days later.
"They were trying to get a future of dreams that they had in mind. A future to help my parents to live a better life not just for my parents, but for them too," said Lizandro and Diego's brother, Jonathan Claros-Saravia, at a news conference Wednesday.
ICE says the brothers, who were detained by customs officials in 2009 after trying to enter the U.S. illegally using fraudulent passports, were issued final removal orders by an immigration judge in November 2012. They were released pursuant to an order of supervision, ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said.
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They were both granted a one year stay of removal in 2013. But two subsequent applications for stays were denied, ICE said.
The brothers didn't qualify for President Barack Obama's 2012 deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program, which limited eligibility to individuals who entered before June 15, 2007, and who were born on or after June 16, 1981. They had hoped to get deportation relief under expanded DACA protections in 2014, but that program was stopped in the courts after Republican officials from 26 states file a lawsuit, according to NBC News. Under expanded DACA, individuals would have qualifed if they have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 regardless of their current age.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have been working on reviving stalled legislation to grant legal status and a path to citizenship for young immigrants like the Claros brothers. But White House officials last month indicated it was unlikely Trump would support it, The Washington Post reported.
Since 2016, Bourke said, ICE deportation officers in Baltimore instructed the Claros brothers to purchase tickets for their departure.
Gustavo Torres, executive director for immigration advocacy group CASA, said the Trump administration has wrongly portrayed its immigration crackdown as focusing on criminals.
"Together we want to send a very strong message to this administration. You're lying to the American people that you are focusing on criminals," he said. "Lizandro and Diego were not criminals. They were extraordinary human beings who were young."