09 May 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Exporting talent overseas – Another DREAM Act student deported

Alternet ran a story (I think quite belatedly) on whether Immigration is going after school children now. It is here (Thanks to Vodka Rani) and the video for the ICE raids in the Bay Area here. Something about this entire scenario reminds me of the military recruitment of students in high-schools post-9-11. In an eerie and scary sort of way, ICE also uses military jargons like “collateral” in “collateral damage” to refer to the raids and arrests it makes. This is the most visible extension of the national security state in our homes (besides the tube), and I hope to see more scholars besides Roberto Lovato take it up.

Anyway, speaking of going after school children…

This is simply and utterly depressing, disappointing and heart-breaking on an early Friday morning. Can anyone point out the logic in exporting our very talented K-12 investment overseas? Please…Help me make sense of this.

 

Meynardo Garcia hopes he is bound for a career as an artist.

His bleak drawing of children huddled in a concentration camp recently took the top prize in a national contest sponsored by the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Hollywood. It was the latest accolade for the Coconut Creek High senior from Oaxaca, Mexico, who said the memory of emaciated children walking the streets of his hometown inspired his drawing of the doomed children in his prize-winning piece.

Instead of making plans to hone his skill in college, Garcia, 18, is fighting deportation back to Mexico, where he hasn’t been in eight years.

Thursday, immigration Judge Stephen E. Mander granted Garcia a continuance until Sept. 18, allowing the teen time to seek an attorney and prepare his case. At the hearing, Garcia, who represented himself, unveiled his latest Mayan-inspired artwork before the judge and asked to be allowed to remain in the country.

Brought into the United States illegally at age 10 in a trip arranged by his mother, Garcia is one of thousands of children nationally who come of age in the shadow of the law.

“I’m paying for something I never knew could happen,” said Garcia, who has a 3.0 GPA and counts American Government among his favorite classes.

More than 1,000 students and staff at Coconut Creek High School signed a petition, addressed to immigration officials, in support of Garcia. He presented the document to the judge.

“He has pursued his passion and turned it into a potential career,” said Nancy Shoul, a Spanish teacher who has taught Garcia. “To curtail it now would be a travesty.”

Abandoned by his father when he was four, Garcia was raised by his mother. In 1997, when Garcia was 7, his mother and stepfather left for California to pick crops. In 2000, they paid a smuggler to drive Garcia over the border, the teen recalled. The family, all of whom are undocumented, moved to Florida in 2001 in search of better jobs.

Garcia adjusted to his new life and became fluent in English. He attended Silver Lakes Middle School and Coconut Creek High School, where he discovered his artistic talent. In 10th grade, he won first place in an art competition for ESOL students for his drawing of a Mayan man standing next to a jaguar. That prize spurred more drawings. Garcia took art classes at school and began to see his future as an artist.

But a random checkpoint at the Port of Miami in August put Garcia on the radar of immigration officials. Garcia and a 21-year-old friend, an undocumented Salvadoran immigrant who was driving the pair, were stopped by officials when they accidentally drove into the Port of Miami. They tried to leave, but both were asked for their ID. Neither had any.

Officials took Garcia’s friend into custody. He was deported soon after. Garcia was held in Miami for two days before authorities sent him to a detention center in New York. He was there three weeks, before he was given a hearing date and released.

Garcia, who has little understanding of the immigration system, said he’d heard of the deportation of adults. But he said he doubted that school children such as himself could be ensnared by the law.

Roughly 700,000 children enrolled in K-12 schools throughout the country are undocumented, according to Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy for the National Immigration Law Center. A proposed bill, the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for students like Garcia, has languished in Congress for years.

Bernstein referred to Garcia as part of the “1.5 generation” — wedged between the first generation of immigrant adults and the second generation of U.S.-born children.

“It is a very promising generation, but our laws are written in such a way that we treat them like criminals,” he said. But proponents of tougher immigration enforcement say that is the easy side of the argument.

“When parents break the law, they’re taking the risk that there will be consequences for their children,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“Immigration policy forces people to make tough ethical decisions,” said Stein, “but the laws matter.”

After his hearing, Garcia was hopeful for his future. Bolstered by the judge’s decision, he said he will focus the next months on his case.

“I came here to be someone,” he said of his entry into the United States. “I have a good shot.”

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