An Arlington high school ROTC student who plans to join the U.S. Air Force is fighting to keep her father from being deported after he pleaded guilty to drunk driving.
Maria Martinez, 17, a senior at Lamar High School, showed up Thursday in her Reserve Officers' Training Corps uniform for her father’s hearing in federal immigration court in Dallas.
She was born in Fort Worth but her father is an undocumented immigrant.
"I'm willing to give my life for my country,” she said. “I kind of feel like in this moment in time, that my country isn't willing to do the same for me."
Her father, Victor Martinez, was arrested in Arlington in August for driving under the influence.
He was sentenced to 100 days in the Tarrant County jail, served his time, and then was turned over to federal immigration agents because he was undocumented.
His family said he crossed the border illegally from Mexico 20 years ago and worked as a roofer in North Texas and had no problems with police until his drunk-driving arrest.
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Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said he feels compassion for the family’s plight, but said the law must be followed.
"We're following the law. It’s very clear,” he said. “When I took the oath of office, it says I will do to the best of my ability uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Texas. And sometimes – often times – there's somebody who doesn't believe that's fair."
He said he believes the father will get a fair hearing in immigration court.
"It's working,” he said. “There's due process going on. The court system is working."
Five of Martinez’s seven children were born in the United States and therefore are American citizens, including Maria.
The family will argue that deporting their father would place an extreme hardship on them.
If the judge agrees, Martinez will be freed and allowed to live in the U.S. legally.
If he disagrees, Martinez will be sent to Mexico and his family said they would follow him.
"I'm in my senior year of high school and it's my last semester so if my dad leaves, we all leave,” Maria Martinez said. “And that's really high stakes, especially now."
She added she has only visited Mexico once and doesn’t know the country or its customs.
In court, the case lasted barely a minute.
The judge moved the hearing to April 4.
Martinez will remain in custody at least until then.
For Maria Martinez, the choice between serving her country and staying with her father is on hold.
"I'm definitely going to like join the Air Force, but that's my dad,” she said. “He raised me. I've been with him forever."