Detained by ICE, Apex 'dreamer' may lose more than freedom

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Nestor Avila, a high school and college graduate brough to the U.S. as a child is now detained in Georgia.

Nestor Avila has already lost his freedom. And he may very well lose his foot to amputation.

Now, in month 7 of federal immigration detention in Georgia, Avila is a long way from home in Apex.

The 26-year-old "dreamer" says he's living a nightmare.

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In happier times, Avila was the kid from Apex who went on to get a degree from Appalachian State University with dreams of being an FBI agent.

Now, Avila's home is a private Georgia prison housing hundreds of detainees accused of being in the U.S. illegally.

Avila spoke to ABC11 by phone from inside.

"It is absolutely miserable," Avila said. "I've never hated a place before, and I can truly say I do."

It was last August when Avila went from the self-described all-American kid to the defendant in his second DWI case. His arrest sparked interest from the feds. He was taken into custody by ICE. His legal immigration status under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was repealed.

"And that's when I found out exactly what being an illegal immigrant meant," Avila said.

Avila's case took another turn in August when the ICE transport van he was riding in was struck by a pickup on I-40 in Durham. Avila's foot was severely injured -- his bone infected.

"I sense and hear from him his voice the pain that he is physically experiencing," Avila's immigration attorney, Nardine Guirguis said. "At this point he could potentially lose his foot."

But in a twist, the crash could end up helping to set Avila free.

The driver that hit the ICE van told police in the wreck report that the crash was intentional.

In Ethan Reynolds' statement to police he states, "I'm just tired of being bullied. Yes I hit him on the side, and yes I hit him in the back. Yes, this was road rage."

As the victim of an alleged crime, Avila is now cooperating with the Durham County District Attorney to prosecute the driver and his help could make him eligible for a U-visa, granting him permanent legal status. Avila's attorney has already sent in the 500-page application.

Meanwhile, Avila's mother waits and worries.

"I feel very sad, very depressed, I'm devastated. He is my only son," Rosa Parra said.

But, what about the DWI charges that put Avila on ICE's radar?

His attorneys contend the cases are weak and likely to be dismissed. But, the cases can't go forward while he's detained in immigration limbo.

"These are merely charges. I'm not convicted of anything. I'm not a criminal," Avila said about the case.

"If they are weak cases which they are, we want them to be dismissed rightfully," Guirguis said. "That requires his presence to some extent. And that's where the frustration is; the violation of due process."

So it remains a waiting game.

Avila's attorneys are expecting to hear back from federal immigration officials in the next week about the preliminary status of his U-visa application. And the criminal case against the alleged road rage driver that hit Avila's transport van is due back in court in April.

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