Forget the car, or we’ll we’ll have you deported
Raffle winner sues, says she faces threat of deportation
Maribel Nava Alvarez claims she was threatened after winning a Corvette in a contest by Chicago’s La Ley 107.9 FM. She didn’t get the car and she has fled Illinois.
Winning a Corvette is the dreams.
In Maribel Nava Alvarez’s case, it has been a nightmare.
The former Little Village resident said officials with local radio station La Ley 107.9 FM and its parent company, Spanish Broadcasting System, withheld the gray sports car she won in a La Ley raffle when they discovered she was an undocumented resident.
What’s worse, she said, is that an SBS attorney allegedly threatened to alert authorities of her immigration status once he learned she intended to take her battle to court.
“I was very sad. I cried. . . . My feelings were hurt because I was mocked,” Alvarez, 22, said in her native Spanish on Wednesday. “It’s unjust.” Chevrolet
Despite La Ley’s claims, Alvarez said she was never informed verbally or in print that she had to be U.S. citizen or legal resident to be eligible to win Mexican-American singer Juan Rivera’s old car during the July 4, 2005, contest at the Plaza Garibaldi, 2600 S. California.
The only condition was that the potential winner had to be present at the drawing, said Alvarez, who recently sued both companies for breach of contract and emotional distress.
Came here at age 7
SBS lawyer James Cueva is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
“I will caution you that if you insist on filing suit against SBS, I will in turn be forced to refer this matter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as I believe your client is in this country illegally. Please communicate that to your client for her consideration,” Cueva wrote in a Dec. 19, 2005, letter to Alvarez’s attorney, Federico Rodriguez.
Alvarez, who came to Chicago from Mexico when she was 7 and attended public schools, said she was so frightened she would be deported that she fled Illinois eight months ago with her two children to an undisclosed location. Only her mother knows where she currently resides.
Alvarez, a laundry worker, has not seen any relatives since, which makes it especially hard given she was just diagnosed with breast and cervical can- cer, she said.
“I’m in hiding. I had to leave my family behind. It was like starting over,” said Alvarez, with Rodriguez at her side.
‘Charges . . . without merit’
La Ley is required by law to get a valid Social Security number or tax identification number from all winners of prizes worth more than $500, according to a written statement from the Spanish language station. A station official said she did not want to comment because the matter is in litigation.
The station, which refers to itself as a champion for Latinos and the legalization of undocumented immigrants, tried giving Alvarez the hard-top car even though her tax reporting information could not be verified, the statement said.
The 1999 Corvette hasn’t been awarded to any other contestants and is believed to be in SBS’ possession.
As for Cueva’s remarks about turning the matter over to immigration officials, they “have sometimes been presented without proper context,” the statement said. “. . . La Ley will be responding to the allegations of the complaint and is confident that the evidence will demonstrate that the charges against La Ley are without merit.”
In a separate incident earlier this month, Toys R Us agreed to award a ChineseAmerican infant born in New York a $25,000 prize in a New Year’s baby contest after the company was criticized for disqualifying the girl because her mother was an illegal immigrant.
Although promotional materials recruited “all expectant New Year’s mothers” to apply for the contest, eligibility rules required the babies’ mothers to be legal residents.