A June 10 Washington Post article: Virginia graduates from high school, braces for deportation tells the story of an 18-year old high school student, Heidi Mejia, who was brought to the US illegally at the age of 4 from her native Guatemala, a country she barely remembers, if at all, knows little about and whose language she cannot speak as well as English. This Friday, she will graduate from Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, Virginia, with awards from the National Honor Society, the school's AP program and the governor of Virginia.
According to the article, her lawyer made a motion to reopen her deportation order, issued in 1999 when she and her mother were caught at the US border after coming through the Rio Grande but did not appear for their hearing. The motion was promptly denied in a one-sentence letter from the deportation section. So much for "Prosecutorial Discretion".
Yes, Heydi's mother broke the law by coming to the US without permission and bringing her small child with her. But did Heydi break the law? What provision of law makes a four-year old child legally responsible for the act of a parent? Yes, there is a country with such a legal system - North Korea. But this is supposed to be America.
Even assuming that Heydi is legally responsible for coming to the US without permission, just as children could at one time be hanged in England for stealing a loaf of bread, what possible benefit is there to the US in sending her back to her country of birth? Is she harming American society? If so, why has she been given three awards, including one from the governor of Virginia, who is not exactly known for being a bleeding heart liberal?
Is she likely to hurt the US economy? How? By going to college and developing a career in some skilled occupation, as most college students look forward to doing? Is she a security risk? Did she receive anti-American indoctrination in Guatemala when she was 2 or 3 years old? But what about law enforcement? Are we not a nation of laws? Of course we are. So let's go after the 4-year-old lawbreakers. There will be more respect for the law, and America will be a safer place. Sure. No doubt about it.
So why is Heydi being deported? Because five Democratic Senators didn't have the guts to show up and vote for the DREAM Act, which would have survived a filibuster threat if they had done so, in part because three courageous Republicans defied their bigoted party in order to support the bill. More than that, Heydi, and many other students like her, who are Americans in every respect except the accident of their birth in countries that most of them cannot even remember, are being deported because of the cynicism and cowardice of one man, President Barack Obama, who is scared of losing working class white votes if he uses the broad discretion every president has over immigration enforcement to allow Heydi and other students like her to remain in America.
The only kind word that can be said for the president and his administration is that they are letting Heydi graduate before kicking her out. Would Mitt Romney, Mr. "Self -Deportation", and his band of "attrition" fanatics do the same? Thanks to Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires, we may have a chance to find out after this fall's election.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.