Thursday, April 1, 2004
Border Patrol Detains 3 Del Norte Students
By Debra Dominguez
Journal Staff Writer
The U.S. Border Patrol detained three Del Norte High School students from Mexico on Tuesday for presenting identification suspected of being fake to the campus police officer.
The Albuquerque Police Department officer called immigration officials after reviewing the green cards and social security cards given by Sergio Gonzalez, 16, his brother Carlos Gonzalez, 15, and Ruben Tarango, 17, said Albuquerque Public Schools spokesman Rigo Chavez.
After questioning, all three students were transported to El Paso and detained overnight by the U.S. Border Patrol.
"We were scared," Tarango said.
The episode became a hot topic Wednesday at a special meeting called by district officials at the high school at San Mateo and Montgomery. Del Norte parents and students complained that student rights and immigration policy were violated.
Jesse Shaw of the U.S. Border Patrol said he addressed their concerns at the meeting.
Immigration laws have not been enforced on school grounds since a policy change in 1993, Shaw said, but the immigration agent who responded to the scene did not know Del Norte was a school.
In addition, immigration policy was not violated because the students were originally detained off campus, Shaw said.
In an interview with the Journal, the three students said Carlos Gonzalez was pulled out of his third-period class to answer questions by police and immigration officials.
"The policeman stopped us because we were outside the fenced area during school hours giving some keys to students inside the fenced area," Tarango said.
"They thought we were dealing drugs and started questioning us. We showed him our IDs, and he called immigration."
After spending the night in custody in El Paso, the students said they were returned to Albuquerque and released late Wednesday afternoon. They say they are now awaiting a court hearing.
Chavez said Wednesday's meeting, which was not open to the media, was scheduled to inform parents about how undocumented students are protected from on-campus immigration raids.
"From what I understand, the meeting was meant to alleviate parental concerns," Chavez said. "It doesn't make a difference to the school district whether students are legal or illegal.
"As long as they can prove to us they are residents of Albuquerque, whether with a utility bill or rental agreement, we are obligated to provide them with an education. Their legal status makes no difference to APS ... But none of this should have happened."
Immigrant Student Rights
New Mexico does not require citizenship for school-age children to attend public school. The United States Supreme court has also ruled that citizenship status cannot be used to deny public school admission to school age children.
Schools must not:
Deny admission to a school-age child on the basis of known, or suspected, undocumented status.
Engage in any practice to deter or discourage the right of a student to attend public school.
Require students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status or make inquiries that would expose their undocumented status.
Require Social Security numbers.