Voting causes woman to face deportation from US

Monday, June 25, 2007

Zoila Meyer, a 40-year-old mother of two sons in San Bernadino, California, is facing deportation from the United States for illegally voting in the 2004 general election. Although she was a legal resident at the time, she was not a citizen and voting is therefore illegal.

Meyer, who was brought from Cuba to the US as a one-year-old child, says she believed she was a true American citizen all her life.

Meyer said, "I've been voting since I was 18. I didn't know I was here illegally. It was a mistake on my parents' behalf. They messed up. They didn't want to. It just happened."

"This whole process is not my fault. They ask, 'How can you not know you're not a citizen?' But if you're parents don't tell you this, you don't know. It's like kids who don't find out until they're adults that they were adopted. We believe what we are told."

Lori Haley, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said: "She can plead her case before an immigration judge, if she feels that she has reason to seek release for removal. ...Everybody has due process when they're arrested."

Earlier in 2004, Meyer won the election to City Council of the town of Adelanto, California, which has a population of about 23,000 people. Following this, police were tipped off that Meyer was born in Cuba, not in the US, leading to an investigation. The police later arrived and informed Meyer of her legal residency, but lack of US citizenship. After acknowledging this, she applied for citizenship.

She voted in the 2004 election, without having been granted citizenship. She was charged with fraudulent voting, a misdemeanor and a deportable offense.

So, on June 18, officials arrived at her home and told her to go to their office in San Bernadino. After being driven to the office by her husband a few days later, she was handcuffed, frisked, processed, and put in jail.

Zoila also commented on her case, saying that "I see people writing 'this is my country.' It really isn't. It belongs to the government and they decide who stays and who think you're free; you're really not."