Friends hope to assist deported high-school grad
Sept. 19, 2007
PHOENIX - An incoming Arizona State University freshman who hoped to return to the Valley through a student visa after being deported to Mexico last month now faces serious obstacles to returning.
Virginia Gutierrez, 18, graduated from North High School last spring with a 4.2 grade-point average and planned on attending ASU this fall, where three private scholarships would have paid for her education, said the Rev. Brad Wishon, pastor at Gentle Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church, who has been rallying support for Gutierrez since she was deported.
Gutierrez was unable to provide a valid driver's license after Phoenix police stopped her Aug. 11 for driving without headlights. Police then impounded her car, and when she went to retrieve it, she was arrested on suspicion of providing police with a fake Mexican identification card, police said.
Gutierrez was then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a background check indicated she was in the country illegally, police said. She was then questioned by ICE, signed a voluntary deportation form, and sent on a bus to Nogales, Mexico, ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said.
Her decision to be voluntarily deported should make her eligible to apply for a student visa, Picard said. If she had chosen to fight deportation in court and lost, Gutierrez probably would have had to wait 10 years before she could legally return, Picard said.
But since a commissioner for the Arizona Superior Court issued a bench warrant for her arrest because she did not show up to her preliminary hearing on Aug. 28, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said, she may have to wait just as long to return.
Gutierrez had been in the United States since she was 8 years old and was on the honor roll at North High School, friends said. She worked 15 hours a week for a real-estate company and played soccer last year. In addition, teachers voted to give Gutierrez an award identifying her as a top business student, said Scott Retelle, a friend and classmate.
"She wanted to be a nurse or pediatrician," Retelle said.
As a result of the search warrant, if Gutierrez is picked up anywhere by law-enforcement officials, she will be held without bail until she appears in court, a representative from Arizona Superior Court said.
Wishon said he and other concerned individuals are planning to visit Gutierrez in Mexico in early October. Although it will be difficult to bring Gutierrez back, "nobody has lost heart," Wishon said.