Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Evil unleashed in America by the Trump administration. The Seven-Year Saga of One Undocumented Student in Georgia - The New Yorker
"In 2013, after a legal battle that had already stretched on for three years, Jessica Colotl, a twenty-six-year-old paralegal who was born in Mexico and raised in Georgia, thought that her immigration troubles were finally over. In 2010, she had been arrested for a traffic violation on the campus of Kennesaw State University, in Georgia, where she was a junior. She then spent thirty-eight days in an immigration-detention center, in Alabama, and was supposed to be deported, until a national outcry over her case led Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice) to reconsider, and she was allowed to return home. Within days, however, she was rearrested, this time by the local sheriff, who claimed that she had given a false home address when she’d been booked into the county jail after her arrest. (The address corresponded to an old family residence listed on the insurance registration for the car Colotl was driving.) After several more months of legal wrangling, prosecutors offered her a plea deal, which she accepted out of desperation: community service in exchange for dropped charges. In 2012, she received protection against deportation from a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (daca), and, in 2013, the charges against her were officially dismissed.
The outcome was a huge relief, but her life never completely went back to normal. Colotl had become infamous in Georgia. To anti-immigrant state lawmakers, she was the face of a problem that they insisted was out of control. In 2008, the legislature had passed a law forcing undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition at public colleges. Colotl, who began college before the law was passed, wasn’t paying the out-of-state rate at the time of her arrest, and state Republicans tried to make an example out of her. They called on the Georgia Board of Regents, which oversees the public-university system, to root out undocumented students, who made up less than one per cent of the over-all student population. They also threatened to pass bills banning undocumented students from attending public universities. Their argument—that the undocumented were depleting state resources—was false. Undocumented residents in Georgia pay hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxes each year. Still, the Board of Regents bowed to the pressure and issued a policy banning undocumented students from the state’s top public universities. One member of the board told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that failing to act would have been “bad politics.” But the new policy devastated undocumented students in Georgia, many of whom had to give up on going to college altogether. In last week’s issue of the magazine, I wrote about a group of students who created their own underground school so that they could educate themselves.
This month, Colotl is back in the news. The Department of Homeland Security has stripped her of her daca status, and ice has announced that she is a priority for deportation. Why? The government is pointing to her 2010 traffic stop, saying, once again, that she lied to the arresting officers about her home address. The plea agreement she signed, in 2011, to try to put the legal saga behind her is now being cited by authorities as an admission of guilt."
The Seven-Year Saga of One Undocumented Student in Georgia - The New Yorker