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Miami rallies behind valedictorian after deportation order

A Miami family sits in the middle of an immigration issue that has led more than 2,500 students and others to hit the streets in protest. Last week, a federal immigration judge ordered two sisters to leave the country by March 28. One of the sisters is an 18-year-old woman who has lived in the United States since she was 4-years-old. The young woman is the valedictorian at North Miami High School, with dreams of someday being a surgeon.

She entered the country on a tourist visa with her family in 1998. The parents later divorced. The young woman's older brother is a U.S. citizen and is currently serving in the U.S. Army, and has previously served in Afghanistan. The woman's father is living in the U.S. legally, after having obtained permanent residency through his son-the brother of the woman now ordered to depart the country. The 18-year-old valedictorian of her high school was denied residency in 2010.

The young woman's mother returned to Columbia to receive treatment for colon cancer in 2006, and although that treatment reportedly was successful, she is now separated from her children. She cannot return to the U.S. The family is split, and, like many families, have a variety of different legal statuses throughout the family.

Last week, after an immigration judge ordered the young girl and her sister return to Columbia, students in North Miami took to the streets in protest. The Miami-Dade Superintendent joined in on the protest. The superintendent of schools drew cheers as he said, "Over my dead body will this child be deported." He says there "are some things worth fighting for," and says he would put his job on the line.

The student, meanwhile, also knows there are things worth fighting for. The North Miami valedictorian has applied to schools, such as Yale, Duke and Dartmouth. While no DREAM Act has passed through Congress in the decade that it has been on public radar, there are those willing to fight deportation on a case by case basis.

The young student reportedly is planning to appeal the immigration judge's decision. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement saying that the agency "will not take any action against [the two sisters from Miami] while they pursue additional legal options. Upon conclusion of their appeal, ICE will review this matter to determine whether an exercise of discretion is warranted."

Several Florida lawmakers have weighed in on the subject. U.S. Representative Davis Rivera says "This is exactly the type of person that we want pursuing the American Dream." Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen says the case highlights the urgent need to pass the federal DREAM Act. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are reportedly also seeking a solution.

Source: WSVN 7 News, "Community rallies for teen facing deportation," March 2, 2012

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