On March 29, at about 11 a.m. as Colotl was pulling her gold Honda Civic into a parking lot on KSU's campus, she was stopped for what KSU Officer J.K. Kimsey described as impeding the flow of traffic. When Kimsey asked the senior student to present her driver's license and she was unable to, he "cut her a break" according to KSU officials, and asked her to come to his office the following day with the license, instead of arresting her on the spot.
According to Colotl's friends, however, the police officer wasn't very accommodating. Instead, they said he demanded she report to his office the next day, even going as far as threatening her that "he would go issue an arrest warrant and look for her during her classes," stated a press release written by two of Colotl's friends and fellow sorority sisters, Claudia Caycho and Lila Parra.
Caycho and Parra both said that as instructed, Colotl reported to Officer Kimsey's office on March 30 in hopes that she could explain to him her situation.
Colotl is an undocumented citizen who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old. Her parents came to Atlanta illegally in 1996 from southern Mexico to escape a life of severe poverty. While friends say the family moved around most of Colotl's childhood, she eventually graduated from Lakeside High School in DeKalb County with a GPA of 3.8, according to Parra. She enrolled at KSU and began taking classes there in the fall of 2006 as a freshman.
For the university's part, KSU officials said Colotl came to them not as an undocumented citizen, but as a Georgia High School graduate.
Although Colotl explained the situation to Kimsey and presented him with a Mexican driver's license and an expired Mexican Passport, the officer still arrested her for failure to present a valid driver's license and took her to Cobb County Jail where she was eventually released to Immigrations Customs Enforcement in Atlanta.
Parra, who met Colotl at the university in 2007, said that as a high schooler Colotl realized her parents brought her to the country illegally and decided to file for documents for herself and a younger sibling. But Parra said she still has yet to receive them.
"Her parents, they didn't have that higher education, essentially her parents are ignorant," Parra said. "She took it upon herself to do that for herself and her younger sibling. She was like, 'I've been here forever, I consider America my country.'"
Friends say once she was in jail, Colotl was able to obtain legal representation with Kazuma Sonoda, of the Sonoda Law Firm, an immigration attorney in Atlanta. Sonoda did not return repeated phone calls on Friday regarding his client.
Arlethia Perry-Johnson, Special Assistant to the President for External Affairs at KSU said the university learned about Colotl's case on April 29 from administrators in its Student Success and Enrollment Services division and its chief diversity officer. Perry-Johnson said the school has been in direct contact with the national president of Colotl's sorority as well as her attorney. But the university stands by Kimsey and claims the officer followed the correct protocol when addressing the situation.
"She (Colotl) was arrested on the subsequent day; the officer could have arrested her on the first day," Perry-Johnson said. "The officer actually cut her a break by allowing her to come back and present the license that she said she had. ... None of that negates the very unfortunate situation that our student is now faced with."
Caycho, a friend of three years and University of Georgia graduate who met Colotl through their Latin sorority Lambda Theta Alpha, said that Colotl was denied bond because she refused to sign papers without her attorney present. She was then taken to a larger immigration jail in Gadsden, Ala. on the night of April 1.
On April 25, Caycho, who currently works at an immigration law office in Atlanta, visited Colotl at the Gadsden prison and spoke to her through the jail's video chat. She said Colotl was hoping to get bond to return to KSU for the next few months until she graduates in Dec., but that hope is now only memory.
On Wednesday, Colotl had an immigration hearing in Atlanta and was denied bond, but granted voluntary departure, instead of being deported. According to Caycho, Colotl will have to leave the county in 20 days via her own transportation, but she will be able to return to her home region on southern Mexico. If she would have been deported, she would have been taken back to Mexico and dropped off anywhere south of the border, making it difficult for her to get in touch with her father who is currently living in Mexico.
"Literally she just wanted to graduate and then she was just going to go back home," Parra said. "Her ultimate goal was to do things right, because she knew the way her parents brought her here was not right. It's sad because it's probably 85 percent into the school year; we're starting finals next week. She's not leaving for another 20 days, so she could have even finished out the semester."
Perry-Johnson said the president of KSU, Dr. Daniel S. Papp, even provided an affidavit of support to Colotl's attorney, stating that she is a student in good standing with the university and reporting that the university wanted to do anything they could, within the law, to help her obtain a college degree.
Caycho and Parra both said despite the bad news, Colotl remains in good spirits. She asked her two friends to tell her story and warn other illegal students to obtain their documents as soon as possible to avoid going through the same kind of nightmare.
"Yesterday in her hearing she (Colotl) said I know that the judge ruled against me and I want you guys to tell my story. I know that there's a lot of Hispanic students out there like me," Parra said of her friend on Thursday.
The two friends, along with the help of the Georgia-Latino Alliance for Human Rights have organized a march on the Georgia Capitol for Colotl today at 10 a.m. The event, 'I march for Jessica,' intends to bring attention to Colotl's case and ask that she be allowed to finish her college career in the U.S.
"I've never seen anybody fight so hard for their education," Parra said "She pays for it all on her own and pays out of state tuition. She doesn't want to just get by - she wants to get that 4.0 GPA. ...We want other students to not get discouraged by situations like this, and for them to move forward. There's so many students, they just want to be educated, because they realize their family is not."