COMMUNITY STANDS UP FOR NASHVILLE STUDENT FACING DEPORTATION
AND CALLS FOR AN END TO THE NEEDLESS SEPARATION OF FAMILIES
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —On Thursday, more than 20 students, teachers, and community supporters met outside the Davidson County Sheriff’s office to call for an end to the deportation of students and their families. A delegation of recent high school graduates accompanied Mercedes Gonzalez, a local student who is currently facing deportation, to deliver her graduation cap to the Sheriff’s Office with the message: Don’t deport our city’s future. The students explained that Mercedes almost did not graduate from high school and her educational future is now at stake.
Mercedes grew up in Nashville after her family left Mexico, fleeing from threats of violence. Now 18 years old, she faces deportation. On May 15th, 2011, a normal Sunday after church, a police officer pulled Mercedes over for driving less than 10 miles over the speed limit, and chose to arrest her rather than issuing a ticket. Mercedes and her family were devastated because she was supposed to graduate from high school that Saturday. In jail, Mercedes was targeted for deportation because of the sheriff’s 287g program. Immigration officials told Mercedes that she would never go back to school, graduate from high school or see her family again. Students from the youth-led group JUMP and other community supporters rallied to get Mercedes out of jail in time for her graduation.
“While Mercedes was in her jail cell thinking she would miss her high school graduation, President Obama was in Memphis delivering a commencement address encouraging every student to earn a high school diploma,” said Karla Vasquez a leader with JUMP and a student at Lipscomb University. She continued, “Mercedes also believes in the importance of education. She wants to go to college and become a nurse to give back to the only community she knows as home.”
Outside the sheriff’s office, other community leaders and allies held signs reading “EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION” and “DON’T DEPORT OUR CITY’S FUTURE.” They called on President Obama to stop deporting students and their families and for Davidson County to end its 287g program, which needlessly separates hardworking families and hurts our community.
After delivering the graduation cap, the students and their supporters walked to the courthouse to educate the community and ask for their support to keep this student, and many other Tennessee students like her, from being taken from their homes. Passers-by signed the petition in support of Mercedes and pledged to spread the word and stop her deportation.
Mercedes Gonzalez, the Nashville student facing deportation, stated, “I am truly blessed to have the support of the community and other students. It means a lot to me that they are willing to walk and stand in solidarity with me, for my future, and for the future of our city.”
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.