Tucson urges release of DREAM ACT's Sandra Lopez
By Brenda Norrell
TUCSON -- Tucson community members urged the release from detention of Sandra Lopez, 20 years old, who has lived in Tucson since she was less than one month old. Sandra was deported and thrown onto the streets of Nogales, Mexico, in what turned into a nightmare.
“I heard the screams of the young girls at the hotel,” Sandra told a judge. “I knew I had no choice if I wanted to stay alive but run for my life, up the lanes of traffic back into the United States and plead for help.”
During a press conference today, Tucson community members and Sandra’s father urged President Obama to do the right thing and release Sandra from the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. Sandra, an honor student and student of the month in high school in Tucson, has been in detention for eight months.
After being deported to the streets of Nogales, everyone tried to take advantage of Sandra. Women on the streets urged her to join them, police officers tried to get her into their car. After five days on the streets of Nogales, alone and scared, she bolted, she ran down the busy lanes of traffic to the US. She wanted to be detained, she wanted to be safe.
Sandra’s father, Humberto Duran, described his daughter, deported and abandoned on the streets of Nogales, Mexico, for five days. She was left there with no place to go.
"She had never been to Mexico; she spent her entire life in the United States. She was just thrown out there and everyone tried to take advantage of her. It was a living hell, it would be a living hell for anyone out there,” said Duran (in photo on left.)
“She was scared, had no money and no place to go, and everyone tried to take advantage of her.”
Now, with Sandra imprisoned in Eloy, Arizona, Duran said every parent should be able to feel what he feels now.
“My message to parents out there is that we have to support one another. Life is not always as we expect. Only parents know how difficult it is to be in a situation like this. I’d like to ask for the community’s help.”
Asked about the anxiety of having a daughter in prison, he said, “If anyone has a daughter or son out there, I would gladly get down on my knees and pray to help them out.”
More than 5,000 people have made phone calls and sent e-mails and faxes to ICE Director John Morton. So far, Morton, the Obama Administration and DHS have turned a cold shoulder to the public outcry on Sandra’s behalf.
After Sandra ran for safety back to the US border, Sandra told a judge what happened on the streets of Nogales, Mexico.
“When I got to Nogales, I was really sacred. Strange men began to ask me to come with them; I ran away from them, I thought they were going to kidnap me.”
She saw men bring younger girls to a hotel. “At night I could hear them scream.”
Older women tried to get her to become a sex worker. “I know they wanted me to be a sex worker for them, I said ‘No,’ over and over, but the men with them tried to grab me and I ran away.”
“I asked policemen for help, but they would not help me, they also tried to get me to go with them and I knew I would be raped, I ran away from the policemen, I was so scared and there was nobody there to help me or protect me.”
Sandra said she fears she will be kidnapped and help for ransom, or worse, if she is deported back to Mexico. “I fear I will be kidnapped and held for ransom.”
“I know it is very common for young, attractive women who are alone, to be sexually assaulted, to be held for ransom, to be forced to work as sex slaves.”
During today’s press conference in Tucson, community members urged the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama Administration to end Sandra’s detention and impending deportation and let her come home. Further, they urged an end to all DREAM ACT eligible residents.
Sandra’s attorney Margo Cowan said President Obama has not fulfilled his promise to the Latino community. So far, Cowan said, Obama has only responded to the pleas for Sandra's release by saying, “We’ve taken this under consideration.”
Cowan said, “We’re calling on President Obama to keep his word. Obama said he is reaching out to the Latino community.”
On August 18, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would focus enforcement on high priority cases individuals considered “most dangerous.” This announcement followed a June 17, 2011, memo from Morton wherein the agency defined low priority cases as including person who have lived in the US since childhood.
"Sandra is an outstanding student and graduated with distinction from Amphitheater High School," said John Fife, Pastor Emeritus of Southside Presbyterian Church, among those urging her release today. Fife pointed out that since she has lived here all her life, she is eligible to stay in the US under the Dream Act.
"Sandra is eager to attend college and pursue a career in public service. Sandra is dream eligible and should be provided the opportunity to stay and continue her fine contribution to her family and our community."
Fife urged President Obama to grant Sandra parole. "As I understand the policy of the United States, you not only have the authority, but the responsibility to grant this exceptional young woman parole."
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