March 12, 2012

Valedictorian Avoids Deportation

Daniela Pelaez, who was on the brink of deportation, will remain in the US.

Shelby: One Florida high school valedictorian has big dreams. She hopes to be a doctor one day, but because she is not an official U.S. citizen, she nearly missed her chance to graduate in this country.

Eighteen-year-old Daniela Palaez and her sister moved to Florida from Colombia when she was just four years old.

Daniela: I was raised here. This is all I know.

Shelby: The U.S. is her home, but her parents never went through the legal process to become citizens. Late last month, a judge ordered the two sisters deported, meaning they would be forced to leave the U.S. That is when students and some school officials at North Miami Beach High School stepped out in support of their valedictorian and her little sister.

“We believe that Daniela is an amazing person and an amazing student, and she doesn’t deserve this at all.”

“Over my dead body will this child be deported. I will put my job on the line; there are some things worth fighting for. I will take on anybody that will stand in her way.”

Shelby: Their efforts paid off. Last week, immigrations and customs enforcement said Daniela and her sister could stay for two years while they work on getting citizenship.

Daniela: It’s a huge relief that I get to stay for graduation.”

Shelby: A few days ago, Daniela flew to Washington to support a new bill that would offer undocumented students who plan to go to college a path to citizenship.

Daniela: They should have the chance to study and to graduate from that college or university and be productive citizens here in America.

Shelby: Not everyone agrees. Critics say these kinds of proposals give illegal immigrants a free ride to break the law.

“It’s great that she’s a good student, but the issue is not if she’s a good student, the issue is if her parents followed the law. And everybody should have to be processed by the law.”

Shelby: Daniela says she will continue to be the voice of other young people here in the U.S. illegally.

Daniela: I’m more determined — more than ever — to help millions of kids because I never want kids to be in the same position I am.


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