“At the end, do I feel bad the family got in trouble? No, not at all.”
“because no one feels bad that all I tried to do was buy a house, and I ended up living back with my mother.”:
Like all illegal immigrants, Lorenzo Jimenez knew the knock on the door from immigration agents could come at any time.
Still, he had enough faith in the American dream to buy a house, even though signing the papers meant raising the risk: He put his 2-year-old, American-born daughter’s name and Social Security number on the title.
And it worked, for a while. Jimenez and his family lived happily enough for several years alongside “regular” metro Atlanta citizens in Roswell.
Nicole Griffin’s mom lived a few doors away, and when Griffin visited, she said, her kids played with the Jimenez children. When Jimenez put his four-bedroom, two-bathroom home up for sale last spring, wanting more space, Griffin was immediately interested.
A contract was negotiated but when the sale appeared to go sour, Griffin raised a new issue: that she was a citizen and Jimenez wasn’t. She told local media, immigration officials, his boss and others that he was here illegally. She even put signs in the yard of the house exposing his residency status.
As a result, agents came knocking last month, and now Jimenez is fighting to keep from being deported. He also lost his job.[...]
Locked in a letter war with Meder, Griffin escalated her actions. She contacted the FBI, the Roswell Police Department, local media, the state attorney general’s office and the governor’s office, among others. She asked her congressman, Rep. Tom Price, for help, saying she felt Jimenez and Meder had deceived her. Price’s office, in turn, contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Brendan Buck, a Price spokesman.
“I am a law-abiding American merely trying to purchase a home,” Griffin wrote in mid-July in a letter to American Homebuyers, a nonprofit that helps low- to moderate-income families buy homes. “An illegal family fraudulently obtained a mortgage using a 1 yr old SSN, and appear to have all the rights in this situation — How can this be when they shouldn’t even be in America?”
She said she contacted anyone she could think of who might be able to help the sale go through.
Jimenez said she started making his life a nightmare. He claims she caused cosmetic damage to the house and intentionally clogged the plumbing, both of which she denies.
Griffin also went after Carbonell, the real estate agent. She contacted the Georgia State Real Estate Commission to try to get her license revoked. Carbonell said the threat to her reputation and to her career caused her so much stress she had to take a leave of absence.
Griffin said she reported Carbonell because the agent knew Jimenez’s daughter’s name was on the title from the beginning but didn’t tell her right away. (Carbonell was not the real estate agent who originally advised Jimenez to use his daughter’s name.)
In September, Meder got a judge to order Griffin to pay retroactive rent and get out of the house within a week.
Griffin then went to the upscale Atlanta restaurant where Jimenez worked as a cook and told his boss he was undocumented, which Jimenez said resulted in his firing.
“It was my last resort,” Griffin said, “but once I realized my family had seven days to get out of a house that a family’s not even legally supposed to own, I did go to his employer and I did let his employer know.”
She also put bright red signs in the yard reading, “This house is owned by an illegal alien.” When Jimenez tore them down, she put up new ones.
Griffin said she wanted the neighbors to share her outrage over what was happening.
“I don’t feel bad for anything that happens to the Jimenez family at this point,” Griffin said recently, “because no one feels bad that all I tried to do was buy a house, and I ended up living back with my mother.”[...]
Griffin hasn’t tried to buy another home, in part because she can’t afford to, so she and her kids are still staying with her mother.
Down the street, the Jimenez house sits empty.