By Edysmar Diaz-Cruz
Miami Lakes Educational Center senior Eduardo Cortina was on his way to work when he was stopped and questioned by the United States Border Patrol. Just a few hours prior, he was at Sunny Isles beach with friends, relaxing and taking in some sun before changing into his Starbucks uniform for his 3:00 p.m. shift.
As he was driving to Starbucks, he noticed a white car with green stripes tailgating him. As he began to wonder if anything was wrong, the vehicle honked at him from behind, signalling for him to pull over.
With both hands on the wheel, he watched in the rearview mirror as what he believed to be a sheriff approach his car. It was the United States Border Patrol.
“He asked me to roll my windows down,” Cortina said. “And told me that he pulled me over because of my flag.”
Cortina, who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia and immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of six, was appalled. Always ready to show his Colombian pride, Cortina had the yellow, blue, and red flag of his home country hanging from his rearview mirror.
“I was in shock. I wouldn’t have minded if he pulled me over a broken tail light or speeding,” he said. “I’ve felt discrimination before, but never like this.”
The Border Patrol officer then asked Cortina for identification. As he reached for his wallet, he realized that it wasn’t there. He had left it with his friends at the beach.
“Fortunately, I had a picture of my I.D on my phone and he let me go, but this could have gone very wrong,” he said. He thought about what could have happened had he been an undocumented immigrant.
Shaken by the whole ordeal, Cortina remembered his childhood in Palm Bay, where he lived in a predominately white neighborhood.
He recalled a time in his Boy Scouts ceremonies, where every scout received an award minus him. He was too young to understand why, but his mother quickly realized that he wasn’t welcomed there. Too tan to fit in, Cortina left the Boy Scouts.
“Living so close to a city like Hialeah, you’re engulfed by the Hispanic culture,” he said. “But once you’re in another area, your skin color stands out more, your hair stands out more, your accent stands out more.”