Meet Daniela Pelaez, a North Miami Valedictorian Fighting Deportation
Daniela Pelaez was born in Columbia. She came here at age 4. Now, at 18 she is facing deportation from the only country she’s ever known. Additionally, she has been an exceptional student all these years, becoming Valedictorian of North Miami High School.
Last Friday, almost the entire student body came out to rally behind her. She has the support of her principal, local and state politicians, as well.
The problem with ICE is that they have quotas to fill so they are indiscriminately detaining and deporting people who are otherwise making positive contributions to society like Daniela. Or who simply are not criminals. This must change.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency released this statement: ‘ICE will not take any action … while [she] pursues additional legal options. Upon conclusion of [the] appeal, ICE will review this matter to determine whether an exercise of discretion is warranted.’
Daniela met with Congressman David Rivera Friday afternoon. He sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano supporting Daniela.
‘We have invested so much in Daniela already, the taxpayers in terms of her education, and we can receive so much back from her,’ said Rivera. ‘She wants to be a heart surgeon.. I’d much rather have Daniela be a heart surgeon here at Jackson Memorial Hospital instead of be a heart surgeon in some other part of the world.’
Rivera has proposed legislation that would assist undocumented immigrants who served in the military but not students going to college. When asked how Daniela’s case fits with his legislation he responded, ‘I hope we can find some sort of immigration reform in the future that will provide for military service and also provide for students to pursue educational opportunities as well. I think right now that’s a difficult prospect in this congress.’
US Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a supporter of The Dream Act which would give students like Palaez the legal right to pursue education in the US, sent a letter to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking the federal agency to intervene and request a deferred action and a stay of deportation, even though the teen does not currently face deportation and has received permission to leave the US voluntarily.
Senator Bill Nelson also asked federal immigration officers to obey a prior ICE memo ‘that urged broader discretion to prioritize case and defer deportation when it doesn’t reflect ICE’s chief missions. In my opinion, an honors student and valedictorian should not be a prime target.’
Senator Marco Rubio also threw his support behind Palaez, saying in a statement; ‘I have always said that our country needs to figure out a way to accommodate high academic achievers brought here at a very young age by their parents but who now find themselves undocumented through no fault of their own. From what I’ve read in press accounts, the story of Daniela Pelaez is exactly the kind of case I have been talking about. It’s the kind of real life example I’ve discussed with many of my colleagues who agree that we should find a way to help talented kids like this. We will be reaching out to her attorney to learn more about this case. And I will continue working to find a bipartisan solution for young students who find themselves in this predicament.’