She doesn’t sound English

She doesn’t call people “blokes” Her parents drive cars with hoods, not bonnets, and when she was in Washington she probably rode the Metro not the tube. The London Olympics are being held in a foreign country to her. Except it almost wasn’t a foreign country. It was almost HER country.

“I mean, it’s kinda crazy,” is something she might say. Well, she did say it. Sure sounds American to us.

Journalists call the story of Lauren Gray, the freshly-minted graduate of Stephens College who wants to become a professional dancer, a human interest story. Most of the time here at the Missourinet we focus on so-called “hard” news, the stuff that tell you about new laws or regulations your government is cooking up or what burned, fell out of the sky, blew up out of the ground, crashed into a ditch, or what bank got robbed—stuff like that.
But a human interest story is a story that touches the heart more than the mind or the gut. It’s a story that elicits sympathy or at least interest. Sometimes these stories provoke laughter or tears. Stories about regulations and laws do not often do that.

So here’s Lauren Gray, who lives in Trenton up in northwest Missouri, a town her parents moved to when she was four . They run a motel and a restaurant and they’re considered good folks. Lauren’s mother, Ali, DOES sound English. But not Lauren. She sounds very Trentonian.

Lauren reached her 21st birthday the day after the primary election. On most 21st birthdays, people do some celebrating. Some even have their first beer (cold in America, warm–we are told–in England). Years ago, before the voting age was lowered, many made a trip to the county clerk’s office to become a registered voter. The event was referred to as “coming of legal age.”

Lauren Gray was about to self-deport herself. After living here since 1995 she was about to become an illegal alien. That’s a twist, isn’t it? Coming of legal age means you’re now old enough to be IL-legal. Congratulations. Get Out.

She came here with her parents on their E-2 work visa. Her parents have had a green card application seeping through the immigration bureaucracy in Washington for several years. Since bureaucratic seepage is far slower than, say, basement seepage the application hasn’t been acted upon. What was moving faster was Lauren’s 21st birthday. When she got to it she was no longer a family dependent in the immigration bureaucracy’s mind. She graduated from college after studying dancing, but what legitimate employer would hire somebody who might be in the country illegally or soon would be in the country illegally? The girl didn’t go to an expensive college so she could pluck chickens illegally somewhere.

We first heard about here story when the folks at our affiliated station in Trenton, KTTN, fed us material about her efforts to stay.

As we understand it, no ICE agents would have knocked down the Gray’s front door and hauled her off. But she was making preparations to leave when this country officially withdrew its welcome of her.

She and her mother started collaring people in Washington, most particularly Senator McCaskill whom they had to convince of the rightness of their issue. McCaskill spent some time with the national homeland security people, the folks who deal with terrorists, convincing them that Lauren Gray was not a terrorist.

On election day, McCaskill had a message for Lauren: Unpack! The homeland security folks didn’t think she needed to go back to a country she has never really known after all. She’s getting a two year deportation deferment. Plus she’s getting a work visa that she can renew until she gets a green card or becomes a naturalized citizen.

And where is she going to go instead of England now?


Some shows are looking for dancers.

One more thing. Lauren has a sister named Gemma. She’ll be 21 in three years. She’s human and that’s an interesting story to watch develop.
And, with our friends at KTTN, we will.

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