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Away From Home

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

U.S. deporting honor students

The U.S. is now deporting honor students:

The federal officer standing over Yuliana Huicochea fired off a question that no one had asked the high school honor student before: What was her immigration status?

Huicochea knew that her parents had brought her to the United States when she was 4 years old. She experienced an all-American childhood in Phoenix, excelling in public schools, eating at IHOP, watching "Law and Order" and dreaming of becoming an attorney.

But in June 2002, when Huicochea was 17, she and some classmates had gone to a national science competition in Buffalo, N.Y. As a treat, their teachers took them to Niagara Falls on the Canadian border — where immigration officials caught up with them.

After nine hours of detention, Huicochea found out the answer to the agent's question. She and three of her classmates, who had come to the U.S. between ages 2 and 7, were illegal immigrants. The federal government sent them back to Phoenix for deportation hearings, which have dragged on for three years.

On Thursday, the four face what is expected to be their final hearing. Their lawyers will make a last-ditch effort to allow them to stay in what the young people consider their home country. If that does not succeed, Huicochea and her former classmates will have to sever their connections with friends and family and return to Mexico, a place they barely remember.

Even as deportation loomed, the four have tried to go on with their lives. One tore through Arizona State University in three years to make sure that he got his degree. Another has married and now has an 18-month-old son. A third wants a career in the U.S. military. Huicochea has been taking community college courses; she recently moved to the desert town where her father lives to spend as much time with him as possible.

Although the four for legal reasons will not publicly name their home country, the U.S. government has identified it as Mexico.

Huicochea, now 20, dreads that destination. She's heard of the crime and violence south of the border, and wonders how a single woman could survive there.

"It's terrifying that they might put you in a place where you have nowhere you can go," Huicochea said. "Why do I have to pay for decisions that I didn't make?"

The fact that this story exists proves that the current immigration is utterly failing. It needs to be fixed. Now.

And the most absurd part of the story:

The four talk warily about their parents, who have not been targeted by immigration officials. In high-immigration areas like Phoenix, federal officials typically spend most of their time pursuing convicted criminals and try not to break up families.

Anyone who thinks that it's logical to target the kids and not the parents is a fool. The kids didn't choose to come here; the parents did. Besides, if there was ever a situation where people deserved to fall through the cracks, it's these kids. They aren't criminals, they excelled in school. They are role models for other high schoolers, and the government wants to throw them out.

Society gets more absurd every day.


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