The efforts to keep a 19-year-old Montgomery College freshman and his family from being deported have succeeded - for at least one year.
Jorge Steven Acuna, a student at Montgomery College, is just one semester away from graduating from Montgomery College. With his 3.5 GPA, friends say that he dreams of being a surgeon.
Those dreams could be quickly dashed if Acuna is deported.
Friends, fellow students and supporters gathered at Rockville Town Center on Wednesday afternoon to rally in support of Acuna and his family, who made an emotional return to freedom and their life in Montgomery County.
On Tuesday night, after a week of detention, immigration officials granted the family a one-year stay so that Jorge can finish his associate's degree.
Acuna, 19, and his parents had been in a detention center on Maryland's Eastern Shore for six days pending deportation, more than a decade after the family came to the United states. His friends sprang into action this past weekend, gathering in a basement to start a movement to get him free.
The family has been denied political asylum several times over the past decade, and now in the face of being sent back to Colombia, friends have banded together to fight. Their message led to an online petition with 5,000 signatures and a 1,500-member strong Facebook group.
"With the motivation that our group had, I knew we'd be able to get the word out there," Melissa Curtis, one of the group's organizers, said.
Wednesday's rally went on, though, because supporters know their fight is not over. As it stands, the family could still be deported in a year. Even as they spoke, a man drove by and yelled, "Send them home!"
Organizers handed out flyers, contacted elected officials and secured legal representation for the family in the effort to get them free. They even prompted the entire Montgomery County Council to issue a statement urging the Department of Homeland Security to "intervene in this terrible situation.
The entire ordeal has been hard on everyone involved, though, including having to deal with an onslaught of negative feedback from those who say that Acuna and his family were in the country illegally.
"It has been really hard," Adrienne Pena, Acuna's girlfriend, said. "He is the most amazing person you'll ever meet. He never thinks of himself."
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told ABC7 on Tuesday that the agency focuses primarily on convicted criminal aliens that pose a threat to the public, but that officials exercise prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis.