Apple Valley School Squatter Disappears

Tom Ford, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Feb. 13, 2006

A young man from Mexico who was found squatting at Apple Valley High School a year ago is apparently on the lam after failing to board a plane in the Twin Cities to return to his homeland.

Francisco Javier Serrano, 22, whose story made news around the world, had been ordered by a judge to leave the United States because he was here illegally.

On Jan. 5, he hugged supporters goodbye at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and walked toward the security screeners. But he has not been heard from since—in the United States or Mexico.

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Serrano first made news Jan. 7, 2005, when a custodian discovered him sleeping in the Apple Valley High School auditorium.

He said he’d been camping there for three weeks because he wanted a warm place to stay.

Serrano had entered the United States on a tourist visa in 2002. The visa expired six months later and immigration officials said he was here illegally.

After he was found at the high school, he was arrested on trespassing charges, but local benefactors bailed him out of jail, gave him a place to live and fought to keep him in the country.

But an immigration judge last September ordered him to leave the country no later than Jan. 5.

Igbanugo said he started to wonder what was up when he didn’t hear anything from Serrano for several days. He said he wondered whether Serrano had gotten mugged or if he was safe.

When Igbanugo contacted Serrano’s mother in Mexico, he found that her son hadn’t shown up. Igbanugo finally learned from immigration officials that his airline ticket was never used.

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Tim Counts, spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s regional office in Bloomington, confirmed that his office does not know where Serrano is. He also said Serrano is one of about 450,000 people across the country who have orders to be removed from the country because of various immigration violations.

Igbanugo said Serrano’s actions could deep-six his chances to get a student visa that would allow him to return to Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, where he hoped to study engineering.

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