The Mexican day laborer jailed in Gwinnett County for refusing tuberculosis treatment is an illegal immigrant and officials have begun the deportation process, officials said Wednesday.
Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway said Francisco Santos acknowledged to agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he is in this country illegally.
Conway said federal immigration agents placed a “detainer” on the 17-year-old Santos, meaning he will be held and that the deportation process begins. But he said Santos’ condition and his status as a minor could complicate a process that can take months.
Because of Santos’ age, officials would have to make sure before his return that he has family in Mexico or that the Mexican government would take a role.
Attempts to reach the ICE agency were unsuccessful Wednesday. Two ICE agents are stationed at the Gwinnett County jail and screen each foreign-born person taken into the jail.
Conway said he does not believe any significant action will be taken to deport Santos until he is “medically clear,” meaning that he is no longer contagious. Santos’ treatment is expected to last about a year until he is cured, but he is expected to be no longer contagious in about three weeks.
Also on Wednesday, four family members of Santos tested positive for the disease, but they are not showing symptoms, are not contagious and will not be isolated, health officials said.