Blog Archive

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Crowd protests Mexican teen's potential deportation; Protesters fight for Mexican teen caught speeding

By Nicole Young
The Tennessean
Jul. 8, 2011

Mercedes Gonzalez presented a deputy with her graduation cap, a group of about 30 students, teachers and community advocates looking on in front of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

Gonzalez, 18, and her supporters, clad in graduation caps, had a message to deliver Thursday: “Don’t deport our city’s future.”

Gonzalez, who moved from Mexico to Nashville with her family at age 11, was arrested for speeding — going 48 mph in a 40 mph zone — and held at the Metro Jail for three days after a traffic stop on May 15. Because she is in the country illegally, she faces deportation.

And even though she and her supporters were told that Sheriff Daron Hall was not in, they carried on with their plans.

'This is home'

“We are here today because we feel like this is a serious issue in our community,” Luis Escoto, 18, a recent Glencliff High School graduate, told the deputy standing at the entrance.

“Students are being arrested and families are being separated. We don’t think it’s a good thing.”

Gonzalez spoke about her arrest for the first time after the group marched from the sheriff’s office to the Metro Courthouse on Second Avenue.

“When I was in jail I was so scared,” she said. “They told me I’d never see my family again or make my graduation ceremony.”

But Gonzalez did make the Overton High School ceremony, held on May 21. She said she walked home from the jail, a two-hour journey, after she was released on her own recognizance.

“I cried all the way home,” she said. “I love Nashville. This is home. I don’t know what I’ll do if they send me back to Mexico. I’m scared to go back.”

So far, there has been no movement in Gonzalez’s case, said Adrienne Schlichtemier, her attorney.

“We’ve made a request for deferred action to (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” said Schlichtemier, who works with the nonprofit group Justice for Our Neighbors. “If that doesn’t go through, we’ll have to look at other avenues of action, such as asking our representatives or congressmen and women for a private bill.

“The good news is there’s no rush. An immigration hearing has not been set yet.”

There is no word on how long it could take for a hearing, said Schlichtemier, who became involved with the case through the public defender’s office.

The protest came after nearly three weeks of planning, said Karla Vasquez, a leader with JUMP, which translated from Spanish stands for Youth United for a Better Present. It is affiliated with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

The deputy wouldn’t take Gonzalez’s graduation cap, so she left it on the sidewalk in front of the sheriff’s office. An hour after the protesters left the facility, it was still there.

“We’re leaving it here for now, but it will be discarded at some point,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Karla Weikal said.

Contact Nicole Young at 615-259-8091 or