Arizona Republic
May 1, 2007

Estimated printed pages: 3

Go ahead, deport Manuel Espinoza-Vazquez.

Get a judge. Get a signature. Get him on the next bus for the border.

But understand, the kid you'll be deporting to Mexico isn't a Mexican.

Manuel is a 20-year-old honor student at Arizona State University. He wasn't born in the United States, but he has lived here for most of his life.

He attended Gilbert's Mesquite High School, where he won an award for never missing a day of class.

While in high school, he earned 20 college credits and earned a scholarship to ASU.

He's a Sun Devil. But he's not a citizen of the United States.

So go ahead, deport him.

But know you'll be splitting up a family and sending the oldest boy to a country he doesn't know.

He grew up here. He is pursuing a degree in justice studies. He wants to be a lawyer. He wants to be the first in his family to attend and graduate from college.

He's just a normal, typical guy, according to Jon Andol, "just like any other student here, no different" from the kids Andol hung out with at Orchard Park High School, near Buffalo, N.Y.

Andol is Manuel's biology lab partner at ASU. "He helps me with my work sometimes. He's a good student. We share an interest in cars, muscle cars and elite cars."

His mentor, Pinnacle West lobbyist George Diaz, says, "This kid is polite, quiet, thoughtful, thinks before he says something. He comes in early to help, stays late, a great soldier. I'd walk on hot coals for this kid."

He wants Manuel to finish school. To achieve his goals.

But Gilbert police stopped Manuel two months ago for an improper right turn.
He had a blood alcohol content of 0.02 percent, well below the legal limit, but a violation of underage drinking.

For that, he faces a deportation hearing.

Even Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, a tough guy on illegal immigration, admits, "Manuel is not the poster boy for the problem."

Indeed, a week after Manuel's arrest, Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn issued a department policy memo authorizing police to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in cases of criminal activity, gang activity, human smuggling and identity theft "if the officer has reason to believe the person may be in violation of federal immigration laws."

Which makes perfectly good sense.

But the Dorn memo directs police not to call ICE in cases involving non-hazardous or traffic offenses. A sensible policy but a little late for Manuel Espinoza-Vazquez.

Manuel's hard-luck case is being replicated across America as state and local officials, elected and non-elected, try to find their way in the absence of a realistic, rationale and humane immigration policy, a complicated task that will create all sorts of inequities and problems.

So go ahead, deport Manuel.

But understand, the young man you'll be expelling from this country is not a Mexican. He lacks the paperwork, but in every other way he is one of us.
He's an American.

Manuel Espinoza-Vazquez, 20, moved at age 3 with his parents to Arizona from
Mexico. He has never been back. We asked him about his life in America.

Who do you hang with? I have two very good friends I met in junior high whom
I still get together with. One is Anglo, the other is Mexican-American, but
as he puts it, he is probably the Whitest Mexican-American out there, since
he doesn't know Spanish or basically anything related to Mexico.

What is your favorite music? I love it all, but I lean more toward genres
such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and in Spanish, Julio Jaramillo.

Your favorite celebrities? Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken.

Are you active in the community? In sixth grade, Phoenix awarded me the Kids
Pride Award for helping non-English-speaking families fill out Christmas
assistance forms so the kids could receive Christmas gifts.

Your ambitions in life: I've wanted to be a prominent attorney for a major

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, whose Editorial Board
consists of: Robert J. Dickey, John Zidich, Joanna Allhands, Monica
Alonzo-Dunsmoor, Steve Benson, Phil Boas, Ward Bushee, Richard de Uriarte,
Jennifer Dokes, Joe Garcia, Cindy Hernandez, Kathleen Ingley, Robert Leger,
Doug MacEachern, Joel Nilsson, Ed Perkins, Robert Robb, Bob Schuster, Linda
Valdez and Ken Western.