SAN FRANCISCO -- When Jesus Ruiz Diego, 26, woke up in San Jose on Wednesday morning he thought for a second that he had just dreamed about getting out of jail.

But when he saw it was his aunt who had awaked him, not a guard, he knew he wouldn't have to face the horrible reality of a Christmas spent awaiting deportation in the Yuba County Jail.

"And then I was like, 'It's real,' " he said Wednesday during a news conference in front of the San Francisco office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom he hopes will help in his fight to stay in the United States.

Jesus Ruiz Diego, right, thanks his attorney Niloufar Khonsari following a press conference talks about his release from Immigration and Customs
Jesus Ruiz Diego, right, thanks his attorney Niloufar Khonsari following a press conference talks about his release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Ruiz Diego is undocumented first came to the United States at the age of 4. He is one of the many who may qualify under deferred action to remain here legally. Ruiz Diego was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at his workplace on September 18 and immediately put him in deportation proceedings. (Dan Honda/Staff) (Dan Honda)

Ruiz Diego is among some 1.7 million illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and who might qualify for federal "deferred action" status that would allow them to avoid deportation for two years. But deportation to his native Mexico remains a very real possibility for Ruiz Diego due to some complicating factors in his case.

It wasn't clear why authorities decided to slap a monitoring bracelet on Ruiz Diego's ankle and release him Tuesday while he awaits an immigration court date. A statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed his release and noted those decisions weigh "each individual's circumstances, including the person's criminal and immigration history."

Ruiz Diego, who arrived in this country at age 4, grew up in San Jose, graduated from Independence High School in 2004 and from then on held a job until immigration agents picked him up in September. He'd been in custody since then, fighting deportation.

Officials want to send him to Mexico because he and his family came to the U.S. illegally. His lack of papers already led to him being deported in 2008, but he returned shortly thereafter to what he says is the only life he's known.

Officials have said applicants for deferred action must have been in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. Ruiz Diego apparently does not meet that requirement because of his 2008 deportation. Despite that, his attorney, Niloufar Khonsari, said they have asked for deferred action and are awaiting a response.

"(Deferred action) was created for people like Jesus," she said.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.