Paul From Minneapolis

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Hallelujah I'm A Bum

I'm kidding of course. Anyway, you may have heard about this story out there in the rest of the country.

A kid, a homeless kid, Javier Francisco Serrano, spent three weeks in a local suburban high school pretending to be a student. Living there furtively. Apple Valley High, where he used to go, for one year, in 2002-03. (He’s 21 now and graduated from a high school in Connecticut.)

Mostly he kept away until the evening, then he’d slip back in during post-school activity time – says he helped out in the theater at one point – and fend off those who would ask, “Who are you?” or “What year is it?” He was ‘doing research,’ he said. Apple Valley High, #1 research high school in Dakota County. He liked living there. It was great, “they had cable.”

Just guessing here – no aspersions meant – it seems like there may have been a day or two lag between somebody realizing he wasn’t a student and him being turned in. Especially with that “helping out with the theater” thing. I’m just guessing, I don’t care.

He’s being called homeless. And he was. Says he got pissed at his dad in Connecticut and left there with $200 and took a bus as far as Pennsylvania, and then hitched the rest of the way, headed for Apple Valley because it felt like home. (Incidentally, I want to thank the Star Tribune, Newspaper of the Twin Cities, for its value in gathering basic information, which they do pretty darn well if not absolutely impeccably.) Then he realized it was cold up here and became sad and scared, and to those who would say, you moron, this is Minnesota I would say hey – do you or I instinctually understand the vagaries of the climate in every state in Mexico?

So he went to a fire station in Apple Valley, and someone there gave him a ride to a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, where he stayed for one night, took the two sandwiches in the morning at 6 am and headed back to Apple Valley High. Unsure what to do, exactly. He just didn’t like the shelter. “They didn’t have cable.” (I’m sorry, I made that up and it’s a cheap shot.)

Incidentally, as long I’ve veered toward heartlessness already, aside from “homeless” he could also be called “illegal immigrant choosing perhaps wisely not to avail himself too thoroughly of the government services intended to protect him from homelessness and direct him to job training and even college like he wants to do because he’s also a guest immigrant who has out-stayed his visa, and I don’t know the details on his status exactly, but it’s essentially the case,” but of course that’s too long.

He is simply the most charming kid. Self-effacing, articulate, funny. Apologizes sincerely to the teachers and parents, wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, just looking for a “warm place to spend the night.” Can’t but suppress a smile. I believe he knows that he’s in a very cool situation. You can’t beat becoming a symbol of homelessness in the Twin Cities. It’s in every possible way better than “one more Mexican in an immigration hearing.” I guess. Although maybe he’ll become a symbol the other way, too.

Hs lawyer is Herbert Igbanugo, a large man with a striking accent, who says he will “fight and fight and fight” to keep Mr. Francisco Serrano in the United States . Stylistically Mr. Igbanugo is something of an innovation in Twin Cities lawyering, at least in one of these public cases. So that’s good.

For some reason the kid was bailed out by “Twin Cities businessman Basim Sabri,” as the newsreaders all filled with cheerful happiness described him on the news at six on Channel 4, and I like Channel 4, but they had to decide it wasn’t really worth mentioning that Basim Sabri is currently appealing a federal bribery conviction. Not a political guy, a developer, one of those inner city “yeah, well stop me” kind of developers. Usually pissed about something, really pissed these days. Lives in Shorewood and put the kid up for a night. You should see Shorewood.

So why is Basim Sabri doing this? When Basim Sabri says, “He’s going to be so happy he got arrested,” what does that mean? Is it the big-screen TV and one would assume cable in Sabri's Minneapolis apartment where Javier Francisco Serrano has moved permanently, a place on Lake Street which is not Shorewood but the apartment sounds nice, real nice?

At ten o’clock, Channel 4’s description had evolved to bail drifting down on the lad from a “Twin Cities businessman.” Period, no name. So that’s progress.

Should we give the kid a break? I think we probably will. The main reason anybody cares about the dismal fact that we need to enforce immigration laws unemotionally is security, and for the life of me I can’t think why al Qaeda would benefit from inserting a nice homeless Mexican kid onto a couch in front of a big-screen TV on Lake Street.