SAN JOSE -- Jesus Ruiz Diego, 26, knows no other life than the one he's had since growing up in San Jose, yet he faces imminent deportation from the United States because he's an illegal immigrant.

His family and supporters plan to rally Monday at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Francisco as part of a last effort to keep him from being sent to Mexico.

"This is my country," Ruiz Diego said in a San Francisco detention center interview. "I consider this my country even though I don't have legal status here."

He's among the 1.7 million young people who came to the United States illegally as children and who could qualify for a "deferred action" plan that would protect them from deportation for two years. But he doesn't meet one of the requirements of the rule, which says applicants must have been in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. Ruiz Diego and his family came to the United States illegally about 18 years ago, and in the spring of 2008 immigration authorities carried out a 10-year-old deportation order against them. He was 22 and had never left the United States since arriving from Mexico when he was 4 years old.

He grew up in San Jose, graduated from Independence High School in 2004 and speaks limited Spanish, but suddenly authorities were deporting him to Tijuana. Ruiz Diego ended up with his extended family in his hometown of Zacualpan in the state of Nayarit. He was scared, the locals were hostile and before long he was illegally re-entering the United States, walking across the Arizona desert. A few days and a bus trip later he was back in San Jose in May 2008.

A little over four years later, on September 18, immigration authorities showed up at his metalworking job in Morgan Hill and hauled him away, Ruiz Diego said.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials said they prioritize deportation of "criminal aliens" and "those who have previously been removed from the United States." The agency is focused on smart, effective enforcement, it said in a statement.

Sitting in immigration detention, Ruiz Diego said he has no memories of Mexico, only the United States. His first one is from when he was maybe 5 years old. He remembers his father brought him his first pair of shoes. They were poor, and before that he'd only worn sandals.

Ruiz Diego's family and supporters plan to rally Monday at 5 p.m. at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office at 630 Sansome St.

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