The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 25, 2009

Terror of being ILLEGAL IN THE U.S.

Coalition supports immigration reform, education

ASHTABULA — Mario Solis Jr. was laughing and joking with his friends the night his worst nightmare began.

Sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car, Mario, then 17 years old, could see the flashing red and blue lights of a police cruiser at a drunk-driving checkpoint.

After confirming Mario’s undocumented citizenship, Ashtabula County sheriff’s deputies allegedly detained and interrogated Mario, immigration reform advocate Veronica Dahlberg said.

After contacting the border patrol, the deputies asked Mario where his family lived.

“All they cared about was if he was legal,” Dahlberg said. “Mario committed no crimes and he wasn’t under arrest, but he was interrogated about his family.”

The Solis family claims deputies knocked on their door at 4 a.m. and took the family to the Ashtabula County Jail and then transferred Mario Solis Sr., Jonathan, 11, Angel, 14 and Mario Solis Jr. to a jail in Erie.

Mother Elena Solis was with a neighbor. Leslie Solis, 6, was still asleep in her bed.

“It is important to realize that being out of legal status is not a crime,” Dahlberg said. “It is a civil code violation.”

Still “out of legal status,” the Solis family lives from day to day, scared of being deported back to Mexico at any time.

“We came here for a better life and education for our children so they wouldn’t have to work in the shoe factories in Mexico,” Elena Solis said.

Mario Solis Sr. said he is angry about the situation.

“I know my situation and I know I am not considered legal,” he said. “But there are procedures and ways these things are supposed to be done. I have never before stepped in a jail in my life and I was in jail because I want to stay here and work.”

Dahlberg said Ashtabula County is home to many immigrants and many lack the proper documentation to stay in the country.

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