Immigrant activist faces New York City asylum hearing in deportation case

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- An immigrant fighting to stay in this country was in federal court in New York City Thursday, as activists rallied in support of him outside.

Marco Saavedra, a well-known immigration and civil rights activist himself who has been involved in several high-profile immigration actions, says his life would be at risk if he is sent to Mexico and that he deserves asylum.

He appeared in court with his attorneys and argued his case over eight hours, and both parties still have to submit closing arguments in writing by January 17. After that, a federal judge will take a few more weeks to review those documents and make a final decision.

"I'm exhausted but also at peace and relieved," he said. "Obviously this was a big day. We've been planning for this for a month. I've been in asylum court for six years and removal proceedings for seven years."

The 29-year-old lives openly as an undocumented immigrant and is an advocate for immigration in both the US and Mexico. He also helps to run his family restaurant, La Morada in the South Bronx, which serves as a shelter for other undocumented immigrants.

"The hope is to remain here in the United States," he said. "We do have due process and respect to the rule of law, whereas in Mexico there's so much more corruption."

His attorney called four witnesses to speak to the conditions in Mexico and Saavedra's character, and Saavedra took the stand in his own defense and said he will continue to speak up for the rights of all undocumented immigrants.

"I just owe it to the sacrifice of my community and my parents that brought me to this country and sacrificed everything," he said.

Despite the increased immigration enforcement in recent, he said he felt confident ahead of the court appearance.

"It's obviously taken a serious toll on my family, on myself, having to continually check in and having this hang over our heads, obviously we would rest better with a positive response today," he said. "But in a worst-case scenario, we're going to have to appeal the negative decision and keep on litigating for a few more years."

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