Ole Miss student faces deportation for revealing illegal status

Rebels are plentiful at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Patricia Pacheco, 22, a third-year student there, is in the uphill fight of her life.

Growing up poor with a single mother in southern Florida, she knew she couldn’t afford a car, but she at least wanted a driver’s license. That was when her mother revealed an astonishing family secret.

Pacheco couldn’t get a driver’s license, she learned, because she and her mother were illegal immigrants. They had come to the United States from Brazil when Pacheco was 7, in September 1995.

“I never thought I was any different,” she said. “It hurt our relationship a lot. It just ruined things. I don’t hate her. But I hate that she did this and didn’t try to make things right sooner.”

Ironically, Pacheco’s own actions — not her mother’s — have dealt her a Sept. 28 deportation hearing at the Memphis field office of the Department of Homeland Security.

Because illegal immigrants are ineligible for financial aid, she has been paying full out-of-state tuition ($10,000 per semester) thanks to benefactors from her hometown.

“There’s not much she can do,” said Michael Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston who is a national expert on these cases. “You can’t cure being undocumented with a marriage to an American. All that’ll do is give an American a deported bride. Even if she has a citizen child. There are no options now for her — or, I should add, for her no-good mother.”

He continued: “It’s tragic that the mother is the one who evaded the law, and this young woman who embraced the system is the one facing deportation. The fact that she didn’t know she was undocumented is common. We take our parents’ word for things like that.”

Commercial Appeal
9/16/10