Arrest shows how undocumented students are punished, often through no fault of their own

Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 10:05pm
Jude Ferrara (SouthComm) 

Last Thursday, students and supporters of Mercedes Gonzalez showed up at the door to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in a show of support for their fellow grad.

Their message: Don’t deport our future.

Their problem: Davidson County’s 287(g) program, an agreement with the federal government under which the sheriff’s office processes foreign-born arrestees, marking those here illegally for possible deportation.

On May 15, police stopped Gonzalez in her car near the intersection of Harding Place and Nolensville Pike for speeding 8 miles per hour faster than the 40-mph speed limit. When asked for her license, Gonzalez told the officer she didn’t have one. And when he was unable to identify her using her name, date of birth or fingerprints, the officer cuffed Gonzalez and took her to jail for driving without a license. 

“That made me feel like a criminal,” Gonzalez said, “which I’m not.” Once in jail, an employee there “told me I would never go back to my family,” Gonzalez recalled. She feared she’d miss graduation from Overton High School six days later.

Gonzalez was allowed to leave jail after three days, at which point the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition  took up her cause, highlighting it as an example of how undocumented students are punished through no fault of their own.

TIRRC members helped organize and promote the rally of support for Gonzalez, whose predicament is an example of the national “Change Takes Courage” immigration reform movement urging  President Barack Obama to, among other things, stop breaking up families through deportations.

Gonzalez’s story is one of TIRRC’s many pots on a fire that is the blazing national debate of immigration policy. 

Recently, TIRRC has had its hand in several demonstrations to highlight what the coalition views as problems and injustices in a flawed national immigration system. 

Two weeks ago, TIRRC members found themselves part of a national campaign to encourage Wells Fargo to divest any assets the company might own in the private prison industry, which detractors say is profiteering from illegal immigration by supporting laws such as Arizona’s and therefore driving up the number of inmates.

In May, TIRRC participated in a demonstration at the Green Hills headquarters of Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator. 

Last August, TIRRC joined a broader coalition in highlighting violations of the H-2B guest worker program by Vanderbilt Landscaping LLC in Smyrna. The company was later fined $18,000 and banned from participating in the program for three years.

In fact, those on both sides of the immigration policy and illegal immigration debate are disenchanted with the federal government’s response over the past several years. The debate escalated sharply with the passage in 2010 of Arizona’s much criticized law on illegal immigration.

Stephen Fotopulos, who just marked his third year as TIRRC executive director, called Arizona’s law the “game changer” that ramped up the debate and led to a “dangerous and costly experiment” of states making their own immigration policies. 

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law last April, broadening local law enforcement’s ability to identify those suspected of being in the country illegally and detaining them for possible deportation later.

TIRRC spent a lot of time and energy the past six months, Fotopulos said, holding the line in the General Assembly against what he called a “small handful of lawmakers” who want to adopt similar bills to Arizona’s law and create a “mishmash” of immigration laws. TIRRC succeeded in at least stalling the “Arizona copycat bill,” as Fotopulos called it, in the legislature until next year.

But success and failure are defined by which side of the bread gets buttered.

Rep. Joe Carr’s most recent success in anti-illegal immigration came this past state legislative session with the passage of an amended bill requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check the citizenship of new hires through a federal program.

To Carr, R-Lascassas, the difference between organizations such as TIRRC and those who believe as he does is the difference between the rights of legal immigrants and illegal immigrants, as well as the obligations of the government to enforce the law. “They [TIRRC] do not make a distinction,” he said.

If it’s a broken immigration policy being discussed, Carr agrees the process of someone receiving citizenship legally is lengthy and is tripped up by “entirely too much red tape.”

“But that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the fundamental problem that we have with illegal immigration in this state and in this country.”

Carr feels, however, that some hide behind the phrase “immigration reform,” using it as a code word for amnesty. “I’m absolutely opposed to amnesty in any form. What I am for, though, is enforcement.”

First, he said, there must be real enforcement at the border, but then states should be allowed to “rectify the state problem that the federal government has put on top of us with a state solution individualized for each state.” 

Gonzalez prefers not to discuss how she arrived in the United States from Mexico around the time she was in middle school. As she remains an undocumented alien, she still faces deportation, though a date for the proceedings has yet to be set.

But if Gonzalez is one of TIRRC’s poster children for immigration policy injustice, Carr has his own.

On May 3, according to the Gallatin Police Department, officers arrested Victor Quroz-Salate after a 9-year-old girl said she awoke to find the man allegedly sexually assaulting her. 

Gallatin police arrested Quroz-Salate on an aggravated sexual battery charge, and discovered he had previously been deported in August 2009 by Immigration Customs Enforcement officials. He was apparently back in the U.S. illegally when Gallatin authorities arrested him.

In a press release regarding the arrest, Gallatin police reported that Quroz-Salate likes Tennessee and the U.S. because “people get things for free here.” 

“And now we’ve got a 9-year-old little girl who suffered as a result of it,” Carr said. “That’s the problem.”

But for Gonzalez, her possible deportation problem is out of her control. Though she graduated from Overton the Saturday following her arrest, her plans to go on to college and eventually become a doctor or nurse are now in jeopardy.

“Basically, I know Obama has the power to stop the deportation not just for me but for the people that’s going through the same situation,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure that I can do good things — for Nashville and Tennessee.”   

23 Comments on this post:

By: Donna Locke on 7/11/11 at 1:26

The so-called E-Verify bill passed this year by the Tennessee General Assembly does not require any employer -- not even state agencies and contractors working for the state! -- to run anyone through the E-Verify system. The mandate and tough penalties in the original Carr-Tracy bill were removed by its sponsors, state Rep. Joe Carr and state Sen. Jim Tracy, in response to the demands of the business lobby and the Haslam administration. We were left with a joke of a law. It does absolutely nothing to prevent hiring of illegal labor in this state and gives unscrupulous employers all the loopholes they need to keep doing what they've been doing.

Carr and Tracy, along with many of the other elected Republicans and Democrats, are complete sellouts on immigration enforcement, and they have lied about this bill, now law. They continue to mislead Tennesseans about what this law does and about what themselves did. Business as usual in your state legislature. Bought and paid for. Year after year. Tennessee is one of the worst I've seen. The lawmakers who passed this sham of a law should be ashamed of themselves. Alabama got it right.

Reporters, please inform yourselves before writing news stories. This story is inaccurate.

"In a world of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

By: GuardianDevil01 on 7/11/11 at 5:20

"No fault of her own"? She entered the country illegally. OK, we can blame that on her parents. But she was speeding, had no drivers license, and carried no insurance. Whose fault was this? Had she obeyed our traffic laws she would not had been caught. Had her parents respected our immigration laws she would not have been detained. Let's stop trying to make this illegal alien a martyr. Deport her and her family, as the law states she should be treated, and we do not have to feel badly about them being separated.

By: fishfry on 7/11/11 at 5:28

Last I knew, if I am caught without a valid license I am told I have broken the law. Breaking the law is a criminal act. This child does not understand that breaking ANY law is a crime...not just murder, etc. That is the trouble with our entire country. We were a nation of laws, but now we have all these illegals here and they feel they have not broken any laws. Misinformation will cause us all kinds of grief. I am sorry for them, but if we are arrested in Mexico...same story only worse. They too have laws! ICE has failed the legal population of the USA and also encouraged criminal acts by illegals. Ms Gonzalez should return to her own country, train at the great University of Mexico and help her people and her country become a better place. That's what most of us ha ve done for our country.

By: holleracha on 7/11/11 at 5:42

It seems that she has taken enough time to graduate from high school but couldnt be bothered with trying for citizenship or even a visa to be here. How is that fair to those who go to the trouble to be here legally?? Why bother?

By: budlight on 7/11/11 at 5:43

Guardian and Fishfry you are way too logical and exercising way too much common sense for the average left wing nut cake liberal or illegal immigrant to understand. You see, they don't get IT! They think the world revolves around them and their own sense of reality. Reality to them is to just throw open the doors to everything and let them enter and plunder at will. We are a nation built on love, God, laws, common respect for others and they don't get it. She and her family should be deported. She has no birth right to being in this country.

Go back to mexico as Fish said and make Mexico a bette place to live. Many Americans have given their lives to improve our country. Do the same to your own birth place.

By: GUARDIAN on 7/11/11 at 5:45

GUARDIAN- "DITTO" to GuardianDevil01

By: serr8d on 7/11/11 at 5:54

These two sentences, taken together...

"In a press release regarding the arrest, Gallatin police reported that Quroz-Salate likes Tennessee and the U.S. because “people get things for free here."


"“Basically, I know Obama has the power to stop the deportation not just for me but for the people that’s going through the same situation,” she said."

...are damning indictments of Democrats and their 'open-door' policy, lawless immigration policy. This young gal has no clue that her appeal to Obama for amnesty has pointed a finger at the Democratic party's motivations by tacitly promising to vote for them...if they let her stay.

And Quroz-Salate, with his less-than-helpful (to Democrats) 'keep giving me my free lunch, Democrats! I'll keep you in POWAH~!' also tends to damn LeftLibProggs.

I'd say give both of these expedited deportations. And if we see Quroz-Salate back here again, shoot him on sight.

By: richgoose on 7/11/11 at 6:52

What a wonderful arrest!! Now if the sentence is 11/29 justice will have been served.

By: bfra on 7/11/11 at 6:58

This girl & the protesters, have no one to blame but the girl's parents & themselves!

11/29? Permanent deportation for the entire lot.

By: conservarage on 7/11/11 at 8:02

what part of illegal do liberals not understand?

they ARE criminals. they are ILLEGAL aliens!

By: skeptic1 on 7/11/11 at 8:38

Put her out. Deport her immediately. She got her free education. Now she needs to get OUT!

By: localboy on 7/11/11 at 8:59

This case is bush-league unless and until the ACLU steps in...then we will know rights have been trampled!

By: govskeptic on 7/11/11 at 9:23

If her parent's stole $10,000 and bought her a car, should she have to give it up if
they were caught. According to her logic and that of some posters, heck she didn't steal the money and should be entitled to the car! Mexico could use more bright
students with good High School educations, In Tenn all college educations are still
heavily subsidized by the state's taxpayers in addition to the tuition payed by students.

By: Bellecat on 7/11/11 at 10:46

We the citizens all need to scream and yell at these idiots we have elected to positions of power until they are doing their jobs! I call and email them constantly, and both Democrats and Republicans are guilty.

Deport all illegal aliens and our crime rates will drop, our unemployment rates will drop, and our schools and hospitals will have room for legal citizens.

In other words-- our tax money will be spent on legal citizens, and will not be wasted cleaning up the problems the illegals who are committing a crime by simply being here are creating.

By: twalant on 7/11/11 at 10:48

I was driving down Ashland City road between Nashville and Clarksville, suddenly I was going backwards and the airbag in the steering wheel was in my face. I pushed the brake pedal and nothing happened. When I finally rolled to a stop some people helped out of the car and told me they had been following a guy weaving in and out of both lanes.

Up the road I could see a smashed car and a Hispanic guy walking toward us. The Sheriff showed up and asked the guy to see his license "I don't have one" let me see the registration and insurance for the car "I don't have them" How many beers have you been drinking? "Maybe 6 or 8 Cervesas" To make a long story short my entire life was turned upside down and this guy disappeared the second he was released from jail. He was here illegally and he got away with a crime that I as a victim had to pay 100% for. What if he had killed me? What would have happened to my family? And these criminals have the audacity to break the law and expect special treatment? Citizens are treated like garbage and Foreigners are given special status?

By: bfra on 7/11/11 at 12:19

ICE agents should have been all over those protesters, taking names and checking ids! That should happen evertime they stage a protest or gathering!

By: titansjoe on 7/11/11 at 12:38

It is really a bad idea to split the family up. It would be best to deport the entire family and maybe a few of her closest friends if they are illegal also. At least we paid for her High School education. So whats is she crying about? Leave and come back "legally". We will be glad to have you back.

It is sad to think that no matter which side of the fence you are on (Democrat or Republican) our leaders (G.W. Bush Amnesty and Barrack Obama) choose not to take care of its own citizens first and above all else. We are being betrayed by our own government! The majority of citizens are against illegal imigration because we all know it is unfair to the people who were born here or recieved their citizenship legally.

Surely anyone with common sense would see that Americans are warm loving and accepting people but there is a limit. It has nothing to do with racism, discrimination, jealousy or anything like that. It has to do with the fact that America is in serious trouble and millions of Americans are suffering from job losses as well as our government is in a financial mess. Non citizens are welcome here, as well as needed and wanted. However, entry into the U,S. should be controlled at a rate that is best for all American citizens. Visas and pass ports should be used to enter the U.S. and before "anyone" recieves 1 dime of any kind of aid from our government they should be a legal citizen.

Stop pandering to these people and take care of the legal law abiding people that have worked for our country, fought and died for our country, paid taxes and pledged allegance to the flag of the United State of America. Our rights and well being should always come first or else our government (dems. or Repubs.) are not taking care of its own citizens. Period!

By: bfra on 7/11/11 at 1:22

titansjoe - You summed it up very adequately!

By: tgm6004 on 7/11/11 at 1:28

this woman and the spanish community needs to put the blame where is belongs
her parants they choose to be in this country illegally
kick her out and send her parents with her

By: TaylorSwiftFan on 7/11/11 at 7:20

illegal alien

a foreigner who has entered or resides in a country unlawfully or without the country's authorization.
a foreigner who enters the U.S. without an entry or immigrant visa, especially a person who crosses the border by avoiding inspection or who overstays the period of time allowed as a visitor, tourist, or businessperson. Compare resident alien.
Also called illegal immigrant.

How hard is this to understand!
She and they are breaking our law!
It is a CRIME to break our laws!

   [krim-uh-nl] Show IPA
of the nature of or involving crime.
guilty of crime.
Law . of or pertaining to crime or its punishment: a criminal proceeding.

She broke the law so she IS a CRIMINAL!
Don't we normally prosecute criminals?
Why is SHE above the (our) law?
She has NO rights, she is a foreigner here and has NO rights as we citizens have!


Information from Dictionary dot com.

By: GUARDIAN on 7/11/11 at 8:21

GUARDIAN-She said "I’m pretty sure that I can do good things — for Nashville and Tennessee.” WTH ??? "pretty sure" only "pretty sure" .. well there you go..send her the hell back to Mexihell where she belongs.

By: Donna Locke on 7/11/11 at 10:42

Well, we have a running joke in my family; it goes:


Everything is free
Except for you and me.

By: Cookie47 on 7/13/11 at 7:39

We need an immigration law like Alabama just enacted.,0,964137.story

Deport them all. What part of illegal do you not understand? Their not undocumented. That's a load of horse crap. THEY ARE ILLEGAL!!!!! Pack them up. Hell, bag 'em and tag 'em if need but send them back. I really don't care if it's vertical or horizontal. Either way suits me.

If you don't like what I wrote, get over it. I REALLY could care less. Illegals are nothing more than common criminals and deserve to be deported. Baby momas, baby daddies, and anchor babies be gone, too.