My friend Monica is 18-years-old.
She has lived in Dallas with her family since she was 5-years-old.
She is an honor student at a Dallas public high school where she is (was) set to graduate in about two months. She has made plans for college after graduation this spring.
She is a great example of the success and accomplishment of one inner city child who grew up in a very poor, but loving family here in inner city Dallas, Texas.
In so many ways she reminds me of my own daughters.
It is very possible that last Friday Monica's life took a drastic turn in a very different direction, a turn from which she may never recover.
Friday was "Senior Skip Day" at her school. Most of the senior class didn't attend classes.
A friend hosted a party for friends at a ranch in Greenville, Texas.
For some reason, the details are still unclear to me, the Greenville Police Department showed up at the party. Every student present who had valid identification was released and was free to go. Those students who had no identification were taken into custody.
Monica and two friends--one a cousin--were transferred to an immigration center here in Dallas. They were booked into the center too late in the day to allow anyone to make bail. As a result, they had to spend the night there.
Then, for some reason we don't understand, on Saturday morning, immigration officials transferred Monica and her friends to the Rolling Plains Regional Jail in Haskell, Texas just north of Abilene, almost 200 miles away from home. There Monica awaits some sort of hearing, though she does not know when it will be.
Got the picture?
A sweet, smart, naive, model high school student being held in a West Texas jail for being "undocumented." Even though she has been here for over a decade, and even though she, nor any other member of her family, has ever had issues with any authority in Dallas, she is now in jail.
Current U. S. immigration policy is being driven by the decisions and the discretion of local municipalities. Federal immigration officials do not sweep public schools to pick up undocumented students. Nor do they insist that public schools deny these students entry. Federal immigration officials leave families alone for the most part, unless they encounter criminal behavior.
Sadly, towns like Farmers Branch and Greenville are taking a different approach. Kids like Monica pay the price.
I spent most of the day on the phone on Saturday trying to reach elected officials who might intervene for her. These efforts will continue. So far, I have been unable to accomplish anything real for her.
So, this morning my young friend finds herself in jail 200 miles from her mother and father and family. She is scared. She is alone. I pray she is not in danger.
Immigration provides lots of issues and material for abstract debate these days.
Monica moves the debate onto completely new ground, don't you think?
She is my friend. Her mom and dad are my friends. What she is going through is wrong. This is much more than a debate.
[A bit of research on the facility where Monica is being held didn't help me. The Rolling Hills Regional Jail is managed by a for-profit company, Emerald Companies of Louisiana. The facility opened in 2002 and has a 48-bed regional jail and a 500-bed "detention" center. The Texas Civil Rights Review reports on a number of incidents involving children and families at the facility. Obviously, immigration officials also contract with facility to take detainees. The company is paid on a per-person basis. To learn more go to: http://www.texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnuke/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=865.]
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