Myriam was rear-ended. She had her insurance information and a photo I.D. But instead of helping her, Coon Rapids police booked her and called ICE.
I was driving my brother, sister, and cousins home after my younger sister’s 15th birthday party when we were rear-ended while sitting at a red light. It happened so quickly it took me a moment to realize what had happened.
I got out of the car and exchanged insurance information with the woman who had hit us. When she asked for my driver’s license, I told her I didn’t have one with me. That’s when she said she was going to call the police. The shock of being in a car accident began to wear off and was replaced with anxiety. There wasn’t major damage done to the car, nobody was hurt, so I didn’t think we needed to call the police.
I called my stepdad to let him know what was happening and was relieved when he arrived before the officer. When the officer arrived at the scene, he asked for my name and went to look me up in the police database. I handed him my matricula consular card (which has a name and photo) since I don’t have a Minnesota I.D. My stomach dropped as he walked back to his car.
The officer returned and said he would be taking me to the police station because they couldn’t identify me. He never asked for another type of photo I.D. My stepdad tried to see if there was anything else we could do, but the officer was firm—he had to book me. Meanwhile, he let the woman who rear-ended me in the first place go without a citation.
My family began to cry as the officer put me in the police car. The officer said that it would only be an hour or two and told my stepdad and the rest of my family that they could meet us at the jail and wait.
I became increasingly uncomfortable on the drive to the Coon Rapids police station. When we arrived I was handcuffed, searched, and put in a jail cell where I sat for seven hours. The nervous feeling quickly turned to dread as reality sunk in and I realized that I wasn’t just going to get a citation and be on my way.
I had never been to jail before. I couldn’t sleep. I felt too uncomfortable to even use the bathroom. I sat there for hours—nobody would answer my questions or let me call my family. Instead, they put me on the phone with an agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I asked the deputy if I needed a lawyer and he told me to ask the ICE officer. The ICE officer told me that it would go faster if I answered his questions without one. I was tired. I wanted to go home. So when the agent began questioning me about my immigration status and my family, I answered honestly without an attorney. I was returned to the holding cell, and after some time passed I was finally allowed to call my family. At that point, I didn’t know if I would see them again.
At 2 a.m. the police handed me my citation for driving without a license. They walked me out of the holding cell and I thought I was going to be released. Instead, two ICE agents were waiting for me. They handcuffed my hands and shackled my ankles in front of the male holding facility. I was treated like I wasn’t even human. I asked if I could call my family before they transferred me to Sherburne County immigration detention, but I wasn’t allowed.
On the drive to the detention facility, I could see my house, the roads I take every morning to go to school. I began to cry, thinking that this could be the last time that I ever see my home. When I arrived at the Sherburne County Jail, I was finally given food and I was put in a holding cell until morning. I thought this was it, I was going to be deported.
Sitting in that cell, I couldn’t help but think, what was all my hard work for? Why did I work so hard to graduate high school and get into college? Why did I keep trying when every step of the way there were walls being built to try to stop me from succeeding?
I legally entered the United States from Mexico when I was only 11-years-old. It was hard at first to be in a different country and I didn’t speak any English. But I had a really good English teacher who was kind to me. She’s the reason that I thrived in school. I started to get “Student of the Month” and I could see how much joy that brought my family. They sacrificed everything so that my siblings and I could have a better education and a safer future. I wanted to make them proud and to show them that their sacrifice was worth it.
Eventually, ICE told my family where I was and allowed them to pay for my release. I am in deportation proceedings and know that my time in the United States could be limited. I might not be able to finish college. If I was deported to Mexico, I don’t know what I would do. Minnesota is my home. I feel like I belong here.
I take responsibility for driving without a license, but I didn’t deserve to be treated like this. Most people who drive without a license don’t get arrested. The police officer who arrested me didn’t care that I had been in a traffic accident. He only cared that I am undocumented. No matter who you are, you should be able to call the police when you are a victim of a crime. But instead of helping me, Coon Rapids police just called ICE.