‘If they make me go back, I will be lost’
From the outside, Ayded Reyes seems like she’s living the American dream.
The 20-year-old, who attends Southwestern College in Chula Vista near San Diego, is California’s top-ranked women’s junior college cross country athlete. She carries a 3.50 GPA and her goal is to become an obstetrician. She is also a community volunteer who has worked extensively with children and the elderly. She is a young woman many describe as sweet, effusive and energetic, the “All-American” type.
There’s just one catch: She’s in the United States illegally.
Reyes’ parents brought her to the United States from Mexico illegally when she was 2 years old. She has no memory of Mexico and has four younger siblings who were born here and are legal, but Reyes faces the very real possibility of being sent back.
In late October, a San Diego Harbor Police officer approached the window of Reyes’ boyfriend’s car, parked about a half-hour after closing time at a port park frequented by many locals, and asked the two for identification. Her boyfriend, an American citizen, showed his ID and was not questioned any further. But when Reyes showed her college ID, the officer asked if she had a state ID or a Social Security card. She said no.
The Harbor Police then followed what they said was standard procedure by running Reyes through a background check in a federal database because she didn’t have legal ID. When the check revealed her illegal status, the police contacted border patrol and handed Reyes over.
During five days of incarceration, Reyes said she lost weight and was “scared to death.” She said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials pressured her to sign deportation papers, telling her it would be easier if she just agreed to be sent back to Mexico rather than fight to stay in the U.S., lose her case and become someone with a criminal record. But Reyes refused to sign.
“They kept calling Mexico ‘your country.’ They kept saying, ‘You should go back to your country,’ but it’s not my country. I don’t know anyone in Mexico, not a single person,” Reyes said.
An ICE spokesperson said that ICE told Border Patrol to release Reyes, but would not comment any further on her ongoing case.
Just a few hours before she was to be shipped across the border, Reyes said she was given a reprieve when U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) contacted ICE officials. The congressman, who was first contacted by Reyes’ coach, Duro Agbede, subsequently introduced his private bill for Reyes, H.R. 3281, which, if passed, would grant her citizenship based upon special circumstances.
Ayded Reyes has a record of academic excellence and giving back to the community, but it may not be enough to keep her in the United States.
“I was very upset with the initial arrest; she never should have been referred to immigration,” Filner said. “You don’t have to carry ID in this country. Police can only refer someone to immigration if there is suspicion that a law has been broken. They were sitting in their car talking. This sounds like racial profiling. It should never have gotten this far. I’m going to do whatever I can to keep her here.”
Read the full story at ESPN.com