Undocumented UC Berkeley student arrested at border checkpoint to be released

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Luis Mora, a University of California at Berkeley pre-law student arrested last month at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint near San Diego, is slated to be released from federal custody today after nearly three weeks in a private prison facility. 

Attorney Prerna Lal, who is representing Mora through UC Berkeley's Undocumented Student Program, tweeted an image this morning showing an order signed by Immigration Judge Ana Partida that Mora be released on a $1,500 bond.

That's the lowest amount possible, according to Lal, who organized a crowd-funding campaign to pay the bond and secure Mora's release. She had hoped to get him out in time for the spring semester, which started Tuesday. 

Mora was picked up Dec. 30 at checkpoint roughly 25 miles north of the border in the Jamul area of unincorporated San Diego County while visiting over winter break.

He was eventually transferred into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and held at Otay Mesa Detention Center, a privately run prison facility accused of violating human traffic laws in a recently filed class-action lawsuit.

Lal said security guards and deportation officers made Mora work without pay as a translator for other detainees while at Otay Mesa.

"Sounds like forced labor to me," Lal said. 

Mora's arrest spurred a wave of activism in the Bay Area, catching the attention of elected leaders at the federal level. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein both issued statements on his behalf.

Sen. Kamala Harris even questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over Mora's continued detention Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Nielsen said she was not aware of the facts of the case, but would look into it.

Thomas Homan, deputy director of ICE, recently told Fox News that he plans to "significantly increase" his agency's presence in California in response to the Sanctuary State law that went into effect Jan. 1, and Mora is returning to the Bay Area amid reports that federal agents are planning a  massive sweep to detain undocumented immigrants throughout the region.

Mora came to the U.S. at age 11. He arrived here legally with his mother when she was seeking medical treatment for cancer. She left the country after he started college. He was born in Columbia, but his family comes from Ecuador, according to Lal.