Thursday, 10 May 2012

Miami valedictorian fighting deportation

By John Couwels, CNN
(CNN) – An immigration judge has ruled two teenage girls, including a Miami high school valedictorian, are to be deported for being in the country illegally.
Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister Dayana came to the United States with their parents from Colombia 14 years ago and never left - overstaying their tourist visas.
A Miami immigration judge ruled this week that the two girls must be deported to Colombia, leaving the teenagers in shock.
"Education not deportation!" chanted fellow students Friday during a protest outside the North Miami Senior High School, where Pelaez is valedictorian.
The high school senior has a 6.7 grade point average and is at top of her class out of 823 students, said a school administrator.
"She's a good citizen, besides being a brilliant girl," said North Miami Senior High School administrator Larry Jurrist, who added he can't understand why the judge decided to deport the girls.
Pelaez told CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux Friday that her family has been battling to stay in the United States legally.
"Colombia is my roots, but this is all I know," said Pelaez, who has applied to continue her studies at several top-tier schools, including Dartmouth College, Duke University and Trinity College.
The teenager wants to study cellular and molecular biology for a career in the medical field.
"What I have worked for since I was 4 years old - to live the American dream. And I feel like I earned it," she said.
The teen was shocked by the judge's ruling since her brother was allowed to become a citizen and is currently serving in the U.S. military. He has toured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Nestor Yglesias issued a statement Thursday on the teens' case that read: "Daniela and Dayana Pelaez have reserved the right to appeal an immigration judge's decisions ordering them to return to Colombia. ICE will not take any action against them while they pursue additional legal options."
The federal agency could also decide to take no further action, allowing the girls to remain in the United States.
"Can you imagine that? Literally putting a postage stamp on her forehead and send her packing," Michael Wildes, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, said about the case.
"This is completely out of character for our country," he told CNN. "I know the courts and the prosecutor will do right by her."
Pelaez said her attorney will appeal the judge's ruling and the teenager hopes she will get the opportunity to stay in the United States so she can decide in April which college to attend.

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