When Maria said good-bye

Why is this girl being deported?

The author teaches English and Drama and coaches soccer at Orland High School.

Admit it: When you think of an “illegal alien,” the image of a male Mexican farm worker pops into your head. He is short, swarthy and sports a drooping black moustache. He cannot and will not learn English. He gets drunk on the weekends and probably has a knife tucked away somewhere. The term beaner or wetback may flit through your mind.

You need to think again. Think this: 17, female, 3.4 GPA, witty, motivated, plays sports and is the lead in the spring theater production whose character has almost 200 lines. Yeah, she has an accent, but she’s been in the United States since she was 11. She has applied to attend Chico State. She is the model student. She is here illegally.

On July 4, 2012, President Barack Obama issued an order that no children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents would be subject to deportation. This order came too late for “Maria.” She was deported to Mexico on April 28 to “straighten out her immigration status issues.”

Maria’s parents brought her to the U.S. under a false name. When she applied to Chico State, government officials found out her real last name. Subsequently, the ruling came that she had to go back to Mexico for three to six months to get her immigration status in order. In plain English, Maria was deported.

The last day at school for Maria fell on a Friday. She visited Orland High to tell everyone goodbye. Students in Theatre Class form a close-knit bond; it’s what makes their acting better. They get to know one another on a deeper level than they would sitting in math or history. The closeness and affection proved true when four girls gave Maria a group hug, all of them crying, everyone else in class voicing disbelief as to how this girl had to leave school.

Everyone on staff could not believe it either. How in the hell could Maria be deported, for God’s sake? She is one of the friendliest and most motivated kids in class. Yet there she stood, tears streaming down her face, trying to be brave in front of her friends.

So the next time you make some comment about how all those damn Mexicans ought to be shipped back to where they came from (as if we all didn’t come from someplace else), think about Maria: 17, female, 3.4 GPA, witty, motivated….