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"Why Did He Pull Me Over? Was it the Mexican Music?"

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April 23, 2012

By Alicia Cervantes, Salt Lake City

Alicia Cervantes is a plaintiff in the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center’s case challenging Utah’s Arizona copycat law, H.B. 497. Cervantes (above, second from left) is a U.S. citizen and lives in Salt Lake City with her four children. After the law passed, she was pulled over by Utah police officers. Even though she was driving the speed limit, the officer told her that he pulled her over because he thought she was driving a stolen vehicle. With no other explanation, the officer let her go.

Alicia Cervantes (second from left) with her family.

I’m a native Utahan. My dad came to Utah [from Michoacan, Mexico] without documents. Eventually, he married my mom and ended up receiving his papers.

I’m studying psychology at Salt Lake Community College. It’s going to take me awhile, but I’m getting there. I have to be a role model for my kids. I can’t tell my kids to go to college if I don’t do it myself.

I am a single mother. I have four kids, ages 17, 15, 12, and 11. My boyfriend, Armando, is from Veracruz, Mexico. He’s been here for 8 1/2 years. We’ve been together 4 1/2 years. He has no papers.

He loves me and the kids. My kids adore him, as do I. Without him, I don’t know what I would do. He helps me raise my children, he helps me put food on the table. He’s a damn hard worker.

He does construction. He helps build people’s homes, the same people that want him gone.

I worry about him. He could get picked up anytime. I worry when he goes to work. If he goes to the store, and says he’ll be right back and fails to tell me he’s going to get his car washed, I start panicking and sending messages, ‘where are you?’

We used to like to go fishing, camping, go on drives. Since the law became an issue, we don’t do that anymore. We’re afraid of getting pulled over because of the way we look. If you’re transporting someone who is undocumented, you could get arrested for that.

We’re just trying to be really safe, so we go to the park, or stay home and watch movies. That’s pretty much it. I’m scared all the time. It is hard to live that.

I’ve been pulled over just for the way I look. I was driving my boyfriend’s truck, he was also inside the truck. The police pulled us over and accused us of stealing it. I said “This is his truck.” The officer said “Oh sorry, I’m mistaken.” And not a word after that. I still would’ve loved to have asked him why did he pull me over? Was it the Mexican music? Was it the dark hair?

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