Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke (D) used the dramatic story of a young "Dreamer" deported to her home country in an attempt to score points during his first debate Sept. 21 with incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.
O'Rourke told the tale of the honor student from Booker, a small Texas Panhandle town, while elaborating on his stance on immigration and the idea of "freeing 'Dreamers' from the fear of deportation."
The Dallas Morning News tracked down the unnamed person from O'Rourke's story to get the facts about the story he shared during the Sept. 21 debate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The "Dreamer" in his story is believed to be Yamile Guerrero Rosales, who has never spoken to O'Rourke. She told the newspaper that she was surprised to have been cited during the candidate's arguments and that there were several discrepancies in his story.
What was O'Rourke's story?
O'Rourke had learned the story secondhand from Todd Yauck, the owner of the Booker grocery store and cafe, according to the newspaper.
The candidate told the crowd that the student who had been salutatorian at Booker High School had recently been deported to his home country where he didn't speak the language.
"My wife Amy and I were in Booker, Texas — we've traveled to each one of the 254 counties — one of the reddest communities in the state and we were surprised as we were going door to door to hear that the No. 1 concern for people in that community was the fate of Dreamers," O'Rourke said. "There are nearly 200,000 in the state of Texas, and the salutatorian from Booker High School had just been deported back to his country of origin, and everyone there was concerned about his welfare. But they were also concerned about the fact that he'd just been sent back to a country whose language he didn't speak, where he no longer had family connections. Where if he was successful against those long odds, he'd be successful for that place and not here for Texas."
Yauck met the candidate on Aug. 7, 2017, when O'Rourke was campaigning there. The exchange between them was captured in a video posted online.
What did Rosales say?
The newspaper reached out to Yauck to confirm the identity of the person whose story he'd shared with O'Rourke last year.
Rosales, 30, graduated as the valedictorian from high school in 2006, and she spoke the language of her native country of Mexico, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The mother of two and a third on the way said the incident O'Rourke referred to occurred was 10 years ago. Rosales said she was born in Durango, Mexico, and her parents brought her to the U.S. illegally when she was 3.
"I did have to leave the country," she said. "My appointment was in Juarez, Mexico. I was not deported. It wasn't like a deportation. But I had to leave in order to get my permanent residency."
Her first child was born in January 2008 and later that year, she returned to Juarez to complete the immigration process. They remained there for six months until the paperwork came through.
"I wasn't deported, but I had to figure life out on my own for six months with a baby," she said of her time in Juarez.
Because she wasn't an American citizen, she didn't qualify for a full scholarship like other valedictorians in the state, but she could attend college.
She started her education at Frank Phillips College in Amarillo. She later transferred to West Texas A&M, then the University of North Texas, and eventually graduated from Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Rosales admitted that the process for becoming a citizen can be difficult and costly.
"It's definitely something that should be easier to attain for good people," she said.
What did O'Rourke's campaign say?
"We were going off of what he was told when he was visiting Booker. ... That's what he took away from it. We weren't expecting to hear something like that in the Panhandle and that was something that really stuck out for him," O'Rourke campaign spokesman Chris Evans told the Dallas Morning News.
A highly anticipated second town hall-style debate on domestic policy between the candidates, which was set for Sunday at the University of Houston, has been postponed, the school announced on Friday in a Facebook post.
"The Sept. 30 debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke at the University of Houston has been postponed. Senator Cruz will be in Washington, D.C. for weekend votes. UH, Univision 45 and ABC-13 are working with the campaigns to find a new date to reschedule," the post said.