The U.S. needs college students like Jessica Colotl

WASHINGTON —  If immigrants represented the best and the brightest, we’d eagerly welcome them into the United States, right? If they learned to speak English. If they were strivers and achievers. If they worked hard and reached for the brass ring, we wouldn’t deny them the opportunity to join the American mainstream. Would we?

Yes, we would.

Jessica Colotl, 21, is a senior at Kennesaw State University, a political science major and a member of Lambda Theta Alpha, a college sorority. She wants to attend law school.

However, she came to this country illegally, with her parents, when she was a child. And her detractors don’t care what she’s accomplished since then. They want to send her back to Mexico, a country she barely knows.

Following a routine traffic stop on campus in late March, Colotl was arrested and sent to a federal detention facility to await deportation. After an outcry by friends and support from faculty members, immigration authorities agreed to defer action on her deportation for a year, giving her time to finish her undergraduate degree. Said college president Daniel Papp, “We are especially thrilled she will be allowed to continue her studies here at KSU.”

But that has infuriated some hardliners. For them, Colotl’s illegal entry is the most salient fact on her resume, her lack of a green card more important than her grade-point average. Her academic achievement, her English skills, her all-American sorority girl status — none of that placates the “WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND?” crowd. As one suburban Atlanta newspaper columnist wrote, “Most citizens don’t care how much ‘potential’ the young lady has.”

The uproar, though ugly, accomplishes something important: It brushes away the layers of pretense, polite subterfuge and politically acceptable criticism. The truth is laid bare: We’re a recession-weary nation wrestling with a bout of brutal, racially-tinged nativism — seeking scapegoats for economic failure, unsettled by demographic upheaval, unable to cope with a flatter world.

The intense backlash against undocumented immigrants — especially those from south of the border — isn’t really a reaction to overtaxed public services or rising crime. (In most of the country, including Arizona, crime is down.) Instead, it’s a backlash against the dizzying pace of change, against a cultural landscape growing more diverse, against a voting base growing browner with each census.

Arizona’s ugly immigration law — which, according to polls, is supported by a majority of Americans — is one sign of the harsh climate toward those without papers. Other signs dot the political landscape: Sen. John McCain’s retreat from his earlier embrace of comprehensive immigration reform; the reluctance of a Democratic Congress to wade into the debate before mid-term elections; the eagerness of other states to copy Arizona’s brand of apartheid.

Even the nation’s Latino Republicans feel the fury of their neighbors’ xenophobia. Writing on a conservative Web site, Robert Gonzalez, a Mexican-American attorney and a Republican, described the discomfort he felt as he overheard campaign volunteers, whom he had enlisted to work in Tucson for George W. Bush, talk about Mexican immigrants:

“Some of the things I heard coming from these volunteers, regarding “the Mexicans,” shook me: about how they should be kept out, about how the border fence could not be built high enough, made it seem as if we were the real threat to American society,” he wrote.

In Georgia, Colotl’s troubles continue. She is in the gun sights of a local sheriff who says she gave him a fake address  (lying to law enforcement authorities is a crime) and of anti-immigration activists who have made her an unlikely symbol of a failed system that, they claim, unfairly subsidizes illegal immigrants. GOP gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson, meanwhile, has proposed that illegal immigrants be shut out of the state’s colleges and universities, a plan that represents an embarrassing step backward.

But Johnson’s proposal has this virtue: It makes clear that he doesn’t care how well undocumented immigrants speak English.

845 comments Add your comment

lionshooter

May 14th, 2010
7:45 am

I do not understand all the hoopla. She broke the law. Of course an arrest warrant should be issued. If I went to Mexico and got stopped with an expired passport, had no driver’s license, lied to the police, and went into hiding, what would the Mexican government do to me? How long would I have to rot in a Mexican prison before being deported after paying exorbitant fines? How many Mexican civil rights activists would come to my aid? None!
So why should it be different here? She broke several laws. She is a criminal. She is illegal. She should be deported.

Rick

May 14th, 2010
7:45 am

Cynthia, you have elements of racism in your view here. Why do you support Jessica’s illegal presence in the US? Would you champion all other “smart” citizens of other countries that want to enter the US?

Are you for open borders? Does the US not have a right to select the individuals who enter our country and participate in the welfare state and other taxpayer provided goodies?

Are you an anarchist? Don’t you believe in the “rule of law”. Obama speaks of it frequently, but doesn’t seem to want to enforce the laws.

Rick

May 14th, 2010
7:47 am

“But that has infuriated some hardliners.”
———
Cynthia, please tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I thought you won a Pulitzer.

Two thirds of this nation want our immigration laws enforced! Just how does that define “hardliners”. What a joke this drivel is!

Van Jones

May 14th, 2010
7:49 am

So much wrong with your column today and I have so little time. Maybe I can squeeze in a few quickly here.
…”illegal immigrants be shut out of the state’s colleges and universities”. YES, there are proper ways to gain entry. If we really want to curb ILLEGAL immigration let’s take away all the carrots we can and replace them with sticks.
“…her all-American sorority girl status”. Please, all-American? Really? How about her all-American (or is that typically illegal) passtime of driving without a license?
Here is a question. At what point would you say it is OK for an illegal to stay? Remember, this has to be applied across the board.

Peadawg

May 14th, 2010
7:49 am

She’s illegal. Period. End of story. Deport her!

“But Johnson’s proposal has this virtue: It makes clear that he doesn’t care how well undocumented immigrants speak English.”

Keyword in your sentence is UNDOCUMENTED. You do know what this means, right?

Rick

May 14th, 2010
7:50 am

“isn’t really a reaction to overtaxed public services”.
———-
Cynthia, just how much do you think metro Atlanta spends on K-12 educations for the children of illegal aliens?

Cynthia is Sexy!

May 14th, 2010
7:50 am

She has had the majority of her life to become a citizen, become legal, guest worker or some other legal status. She has CHOSESN NOT to do so and at the same time, lie to the police.

There is nothing ugly or immoral about the position of the US citizenry on this matter.

She should be deported.

Chris

May 14th, 2010
7:50 am

Expired passport. Mexican DL that she couldn’t produce. (Apparently) lied about her address. She’s had plenty of room, time, and ability to not make these mistakes, yet she has. She’s been living here for 12 years, even the four she has had since she turned 18 should have been plenty of time to apply for some sort of permanent status.

I’m not sure I want a lawyer who doesn’t understand the law.

Sendthemhome

May 14th, 2010
7:52 am

So now you suggest selectively applying our nations laws, right? If I speed to the food bank to drop off food, it’s ok because I’m doing something good…do you think the cop will buy it? She is here illegally and should be deported. PERIOD!! We should also be rounding up all of her other illegal com padres and sending them back across the border. It’s really just that simple.

Eric Holder

May 14th, 2010
7:53 am

Even though I have yet to read the AZ Illegal Immigrant law I am still opposed to it.

Thanks and God Bless you all.
What would Jesus do.
Stop the hate.
Its time for us to heal.
We all need to come together.

SouthernGal

May 14th, 2010
7:58 am

If Ms. Coloti was receiving In State Tuition and or the Hope Grant…that is criminal!

EagleDawg

May 14th, 2010
8:02 am

Send every illegal back. I’m tired of all this political correctness in our country.

gale

May 14th, 2010
8:02 am

“WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND?” crowd. Count me as a member of the club. No, we should not allow illegals to attend our colleges, not public schools either. There are legal means to gain access to these facilities. If some group wants to sponsor this person for a student visa AFTER her deportation, fine. Her record makes her a good candidate. I see no reason at all for illegal entry to provide someone with a fast track when there are so many still waiting for legal residency. Fix the immigration process. But deport illegals under the current law. For now, she gets deported ALONG with the parents she was apparently protecting.

Lance A. Dodd

May 14th, 2010
8:02 am

What part of illlegal makes it legal. Lock the borders, NOW!

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:03 am

Obviously, these right-wing nativists do not believe that God’s love for everyone does not extend to immigrants. Southerners need to get real and embrace love, not hate.

Not on my watch

May 14th, 2010
8:03 am

This hurts the argument of those who would support immigrants. Many people have tried to further the cause by portraying immigrants as poor, uneducated types who barely scratch out a living. While I am sure that IS the majority, if they’re smart, immigration supporters should tread carefully.

Of all the things she did wrong, the one that stands out to me is driving without a license. I shudder at the thought of her getting into an accident.

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:04 am

Support the Dream Act! Support Jessica Colotl. I hope she becomes a civil rights lawyer!

Hoops McCann

May 14th, 2010
8:04 am

Correction, Cynthia – we don’t need college students like Jessica Colotl who break the law and lie to law enforcement. Do you support all criminals if they fall into the liberal crowd? It amazes me that the AJC still employs you. What does the GOP have to do with her breaking the law and entering the country illegally?

Chris Broe

May 14th, 2010
8:04 am

I hope Coloti can stay, finish her education, and then make a pinata out of the glass ceiling.

What pretense, polite subterfuge, and political acceptable criticism? I haven’t seen any from either party since the dry-cleaning-challenged blue dress.

OT: why wasn’t monica’s dress auctioned on Ebay? Can you imagine how much that would fetch? It’s more famous than Betsy Ross’s original flag. And changed the political landscape more. It’s been the GOP standard for over ten years now. I’ll start the bidding with a thousand dollars. What? A thousand dollars isn’t really a lot of money any more? Well why don’t you frickin’ tell me these things?

Not on my watch

May 14th, 2010
8:05 am

@ RealisticGeorgian: Don’t forget gays, Muslims, and (for some) blacks. God hates them too, remember?

Hoops McCann

May 14th, 2010
8:05 am

Realistic, if she becomes an attorney she made need to realize that she will also have to abide by the law. Her actions speak otherwise. I hope she finishes her degree south of the border.

crabapplejoe

May 14th, 2010
8:08 am

@Chris who wrote: “She’s been living here for 12 years, even the four she has had since she turned 18 should have been plenty of time to apply for some sort of permanent status. I’m not sure I want a lawyer who doesn’t understand the law

@Cynthia is Sexy who wrote: “She has had the majority of her life to become a citizen, become legal, guest worker or some other legal status. She has CHOSESN NOT to do so”

These comments, though well intended, point out the fact that the immigration debate will go nowhere because the two sides don’t/can’t hear each other’s arguments. The fact of the matter is that this girl has no basis to obtain legal status in this country. Her parents brought her here when she was a child and now she is totally precluded from becoming part of our society. She can’t get a “green card” or any other legal status. She can’t get a social security card or drivers license. She is simply stuck in immigration limbo for the rest of her life unless the laws are changed. I am totally in favor of more border security to prevent more Jessica stories from evolving but we need to change the laws to allow these folks who were brought her as kids to legitimize their status. That being said, I think ICE is wrong to give her special treatment just because the press got involved in this “sympathetic” case. ICE is deporting people who have more sympathetic cases every day. By enforcing the law equally ICE will force Congress to reevalute our immigration laws.

gale

May 14th, 2010
8:09 am

People arguing for her deportation don’t necessarily hate immigrants. What they hate is people who disrespect our laws.

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:11 am

This case makes a mockery of the 287g program. Obviously GA sheriffs need the ICE program to chase after bright students like Jessica Colotl by bringing her in on a minor traffic charge. Georgians need to stop this racist rhetoric and focus on getting politicians away from lobbyists and finding jobs to fix our economy!

fishtales

May 14th, 2010
8:11 am

Cynthia,
You could have boiled your entire column down to one sentence: “I am for selective application of our laws.” But I’m betting you get paid to fill space…not make any sense.

Ken

May 14th, 2010
8:11 am

Under current immigration law, she has no options whatsoever to obtain a student visa or permanent residency. So she didn’t “choose” to neglect her situation. Since when do we blame children for the acts of their parents?? She was brought here, right?

As for this CRIMINAL label, give me a break…she didn’t commit a carjacking or rob a bank yet most of these posters want to characterize her in this light. I want better border security just like everyone else but this undocumented problem has been years in the making and it is the fault of Congress for not having addressed the immigration system years ago which would have gone a long way towards avoiding where we are now.

And please spare me the “rule of law!” arguments. Laws are updated all of the time to reflect changes in society. At one time child labor was “legal,” so did that make it moral or right? Until the focus can be on making an honest assessment of whether immigration laws are reasonable and rational and serve to protect our security interests while at the same time fixing this messed up immigration system, then these hateful and venomous posts will continue unabated.

I have another theory: For most of you posters, it is just too irresistible to demonize illegal aliens so that you have a target to focus your bitterness, hate and resentment at your pathetic lot in life.

martin

May 14th, 2010
8:12 am

Cynthia, just a few questions if you don’t mind.

1. Are you for completely opening our borders and let anyone in that wants to?
2. Do you believe that it is okay to break the law of the land?

Because, I think of your open support of Ms. Coloti, you are saying just that. I think that it is a disgrace that she was brought here, albeit she was a child, enjoys the full benefits of a state citizen and did it illegally. What about the people who came here legally who waited for months and months to come. I believe it is a slap in their face. Sometimes heartfelt emotion will distort logical thought processes.

We’ve got a real problem with our immigration policy because it isn’t enforced. We as a country needs to fix it. There are no easy solutions but I do say this, open amnesty will lead more people here illegally. I kind of think Mexico wants to dump it’s citizens on us, It makes balancing their budgets a bit easier and strains ours to the point of bankruptcy!

ctucker

May 14th, 2010
8:12 am

RealisticGeorgian, I hope she does, too!

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:12 am

Hope this will lead to an Office of Civil Rights in Georgia! Lord knows we need that even more now with all this racist and anti-immigrant craziness that is coming out nowadays!

gale

May 14th, 2010
8:12 am

I am really curious about how Coloti expected to become a lawyer when she has no legal status in the USA.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 14th, 2010
8:13 am

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:03 am

LOL…what does Gods love have to do with flaunting the law? I wonder if God would encourage this girl to become legal? Stop with your silly religious diatribes and sorry excuse making.

I hope she gets deported.

Ray P

May 14th, 2010
8:13 am

This is the first I am hearing of this. What if I had evaded the IRS for ten years but payed my taxes now? I would go to prison, or at the very least spend the rest of my life paying fines. I am curious, how has her educational career been funded? I would hate to think that she (an illegal alien) has occupied educational funding that a less fortunate American citizen might have used to get an education.

Lance A. Dodd

May 14th, 2010
8:13 am

And just when did the illegal’s and criminals, start telling LEO, when they will be arrested, COBB SWAT should be looking for her. Arrest all these people that know where she is, if I remember isn’t aiding a person wanted by the law a crime. They will have a new conference at 2 well at 12 they should have her backside on a bus headed for the border. And the rest of her clan arrested, as well as all that have helped her. And I haven’t even started on KSU yet, the entire board that approved her back at school, should be fired, we pay them to allow this, and remember the word we. Lock the Borders Now!

Do some research Tucker

May 14th, 2010
8:13 am

Cobb County found her to be in the country illegally through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 287(g) program. They checked her “papers”, as the left portrays it, and whaddya know? She’s not a citizen.

Now, why is everyone up in arms about the Arizona law (that most of you haven’t read) when ICE has established Pilot pograms through 287(g) with local LE agencies across the country to do EXACTLY what they’re doing in Arizona???

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 14th, 2010
8:14 am

SimplisticGeorgian…the economy isnt gonna be fixed anytime soon. After the census workers drop of the unemployment rate should then top 10%…if not sooner!!

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:15 am

I suspect this will lead the federal government to focus even more attention on racist Georgia. That is the positive side of all of this racist rhetoric. Bring in federal intervention. The South needs your help again to see the light!

Really?

May 14th, 2010
8:16 am

Racism. Why is this always the fallback position. My feelings on illegal immigration are rooted in the desire to keep a system that is designed to help citizens and those that immigrate to the USA legally viable. Illegal immigrants are further stressing already stressed institutions in our country such as education, law enforcement, employment, and health. These are the basics that a government is mandated to protect.

But go ahead with your claims of rascism. It only invalidates further your position.

Peadawg

May 14th, 2010
8:16 am

“Since when do we blame children for the acts of their parents?? ”

Since she knew she was illegal, she knew she didn’t have a valid drivers license, she knew she was breaking the law etc. etc.

Cynthia, are you for selective enforcement of our nations laws? Please answer. Just yes or no will do.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 14th, 2010
8:16 am

LOL….see the light…LOL.

Interesting choice of words.

Chris

May 14th, 2010
8:17 am

No path to citizenship? She’s a citizen of Mexico. Just because she’s been living here doesn’t change that.

RealisticGeorgian

May 14th, 2010
8:18 am

Jessica Colotl will probably do more good than those Georgians who sit on their butt complaining on an AJC blog rather than actually doing something to bring positive change to our society and economy.

Peadawg

May 14th, 2010
8:18 am

My 8:16 goes back to personal responsibility, which liberals have a hard time grasping. Always blaming someone else!

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 14th, 2010
8:18 am

All the left has in their arguments, after excluding or ignoring the facts, is “y’all are haters, stop hating” or “racists, bigots, racism”…the only remaining vestiges of scoundrels.

Mike O.

May 14th, 2010
8:20 am

Ok, I apparently have woken up in Bizzaro World. When i went to sleep, there were steps, legal steps that had to be taken to enter this county. You were required to ahve a valid drivers license if you wanted to drive. If a police officer asks you a question, it is your duty to tell them the truth,(unless your doing somethig illegal and dont want to be caught). And it wasn’t about ” How brown you are”. Here’s a few questions Cynthia Tucker should ask and get answers to. Did this young lady lie to the police? How was her tuition paid for, has she accepted and used any federal or state monies, grants or scholarships to pursue her education? What about the rest of her family, I would assume that if she is here illegally, they to are also here illegally? What is being done about that? The Law is the Law, if this one doesn’t matter why should any other.

Chris

May 14th, 2010
8:20 am

Realistic @ 8:18am

The ironing is delicious.

kt

May 14th, 2010
8:20 am

Ship her illegal ass back to wherever she came from. Tell her to re-enter the US legally to finish her education.

free

May 14th, 2010
8:21 am

she needs to pay out of state tuition for the years she was there, get her diploma, and then seek LEGAL status. she’s been caught and now it’s time to do the right thing by us because we’ve done the right thing by her.

quit being a bleeding heart

May 14th, 2010
8:21 am

This is not racism.
She has no more right to go to school here as if I walked into the Sorbonne and demanded schooling.
She lied.
Anyone who has ever left this country knows that you carry your passport at all times. You are asked for it for many things.
You come into this country and are immediately given rights and privileges like citizens. It is absurd and it is bankrupting this country.

Courtney

May 14th, 2010
8:22 am

She is a criminal and a liar when caught. Prosecute her for fraud and put her in jail.

Hoops McCann

May 14th, 2010
8:22 am

Realistic, you are the real racist on this blog. By the way, how will she do better than most on here since she will be in jail or sitting in Mexico.