Friday, July 8, 2011

Overton grad Mercedes Gonzalez targeted for deportation: "I'm just a normal person"

Overton High School graduate Mercedes Gonzalez, with her diploma, gown and (now discarded) cap

Despite all she's been through, Mercedes Gonzalez loves Nashville.

"I love Nashville" were the first words out of the 2011 Overton High graduate's mouth when she told the Tennessean about being taken to jail for going 48 mph in a 40 mph zone, and after that having to walk home for two hours.

"I love Nashville" were the last words out of her mouth when I asked her what activities she's been in involved in:
I graduated from John Overton High School. I am very active at my church, I play soccer, I love to play the guitar definitely I love music as well as NASHVILLE.
Her love for Tennessee follows right behind her talk of hobbies:
I love the violin and guitar music, I like to take walks around the lake with my friends and family, I enjoy every piece of Tennessee…
Because of Mercedes' speeding ticket and the federal-local immigration bureaucracy, Uncle Sam has filed papers to move Mercedes to Mexico.

Mercedes' family is from Veracruz, right up against on the southern edge of the Gulf. She was brought to Nashville when she was 11. "Even though I didn’t have the choice to come to the USA I am still very grateful that they didn’t leave me there alone," says Mercedes. None of Mercedes' relatives remain there, she says.

A 1996 law says that Mercedes' love for Nashville, her good grades, and her overall good behavior can't factor into an Immigration Court's decision on where Mercedes should live, so the group that is graciously providing Mercedes with a lawyer is hoping that the prosecutor exercises discretion - also known as deferred action - in Mercedes' favor.

So Mercedes' future is up in the air, but she remains proactive and optimistic:
My plans are that I am going to be a doctor. I am working on going to college. I have always liked to help people and the community.
Does Mercedes have any idea what she would do back in Mexico if she were deported? Would she go back to the gulf-side town of Veracruz? Would it be realistic to try to get a job in another city, perhaps where English skills and an American education would be more helpful and not a hindrance? Eighteen-year-old Mercedes has a personal answer to those academic questions:
If I go back to Mexico my future wouldn’t be the same, my life it’s here, my friends, my family I love being here and I am just a normal person wishing to have a better future not just for me but also for the people that are going through the same situation.
As for the speeding that started this ball rolling, if you know what 287(g) is or have skimmed any of the recent scandals, you know that the Nashville police department isn't allowed to arrest people based on immigration status. They can arrest a driver who would normally get only a ticket, but only if there's no proof of identity. I asked Mercedes if, when she was pulled over, she had any I.D. to show the officer:
Yes, I had my student I.D., but the officer didn’t accept it.
So that was the Metro Nashville P.D.'s opinion of a public school education.  The sheriff's office, for its part, got a chance to offer its opinion of that same subject - twice.

Mercedes told the Tennessean that while she was in jail, Sheriff officials told her she'd never see her family or Overton again. When Mercedes showed up at the Sheriff's office yesterday to deliver her graduation cap in an act of protest, no one in the office would take it, and spokeswoman Karla Weikal told the Tennessean:
We’re leaving it here for now, but it will be discarded at some point.
Mercedes Gonzalez, now without her Overton graduation cap, still loves Nashville.

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