Roxana Orellana Santos said NO! to eating while Latina

Roxana Orellana Santos with her husband and son

In northern Maryland, the Frederick County Council is finally considering repeal of their English-only ordinance, in effect since 2012. Whatever they finally decide, we can all thank Roxana Orellana Santos for opening the door to inclusion and common decency. It all began in October 2008 … with lunch.

Roxana Orellana Santos was eating her lunch outside her workplace when two Frederick County sheriff’s deputies approached her and asked about her immigration status. The deputies had no other reason to question Roxana Orellana Santos. Other than being Brown skinned and Latina looking, she had committed no offense. Nevertheless, the deputies determined that there was an outstanding civil deportation warrant, and took her in. Roxana Orellana Santos was held for 37 days without any criminal charges, again other than being Latina.

Roxana Orellana Santos said NO! No to the indignity and no to the violation of her rights. As she put it, “To be honest, he arrested me because I was sitting there and eating bread. She sued the County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and the two deputies. In 2001, the first court dismissed her case. In August 2013, a higher court agreed in large part with Roxana Orellana Santos. One of her attorneys Jose Perez explained, “It is apparent that the Frederick County deputies pre-textually stopped, questioned and detained Ms. Orellana Santos solely based upon her physical appearance at a time when the Fredrick County Sheriff was publicly trumpeting how many immigrants his office had arrested. This is the essence of racial profiling.”

Roxana Orellana Santos said, “I want this to end, once and for all. I want to be happy with my children. I want to go to the park with them and say `I am happy’ and know that no one will try to humiliate me.”

And now, seven years later, the Frederick County Council is rethinking an ordinance that targets and criminalizes those who speak languages other than English or who might prefer to speak in those languages, especially in high stress situations. And you know who was there, testifying at length? Roxana Orellana Santos. Thanks to her refusal to be discarded and thanks to her determination, we can all say, ¡A luta continua!


(Photo Credit: Milagros Meléndez-Vela / El Tiempo Latino)

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.