San Diego – Ayded Reyes, a student and star athlete at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, north of San Diego, is in danger of being deported after a minor brush with police.
On Oct. 27, Reyes, the captain of the SWC women's cross-country team, was chatting with her boyfriend in a car at Cesar Chavez Park in San Diego.
"It was 10:45 at night when a cop shone a flashlight through the car window. He told us the park didn't allow cars stopped there after 10:30 p.m. and asked for our state IDs," the 20-year-old Reyes told Efe.
Her boyfriend handed over his driver's license and Reyes her college credential, but that wasn't good enough for the police officer.
"He asked for my Social Security number, and when I said I didn't know it, he went to his patrol car. He came back and asked me whether I didn't know it or didn't have one. By the time I told him I didn't have one, the Border Patrol was already there," Reyes said.
The student was taken to the Imperial Beach detention center where she was only allowed to call the Mexican Consulate, closed at that hour, and the next day they let her call her parents.
"I don't consider myself a criminal, but at the detention center they treated me like one, besides pressuring me with lies to get me to sign the voluntary deportation document," she said.
Upon learning of her detention, a group of political and community leaders mobilized, including the activist and founder of the Border Angels group, Enrique Morones, who got ahold of immigration lawyers and Bob Filner, a Democrat who represents Chula Vista in the U.S. Congress.
The lawmaker agreed to get involved in the case and asked to meet with immigration agents, to whom he insisted that Reyes not be deported until she had a hearing.
Thanks to the efforts of the activists and Filner, Reyes was released the following Monday, but severely dehydrated because of the unhealthy conditions of the detention center.
To the pride of coach Duro Agbede, Reyes won the Pacific Coast Conference Cross-Country Championship the following week.
"I wanted to show everyone who helped me that I'm a fighter," Reyes said.
She said that despite all she went through, "maybe something positive can be learned from it since it shows what still needs to be done - the fact is not everyone who goes through the system gets the help I did."
Reyes also considered it important that other young people in her plight know they have the right to a hearing if they are detained by immigration agents, something she learned from a high-school teacher and which prepared her to resist the pressure which otherwise would have pushed her into signing her own deportation document.
"My family brought me here when I was 3 years old. They don't accept us as citizens but I've never committed a crime, I just want to be a success and have a better life," Reyes said.
The student is awaiting her immigration-case hearing scheduled for March 2012.