Allowed to Stay, Miami Student Becomes Face of Obama Immigration Policy

By Jonsson, Patrik | The Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

Allowed to Stay, Miami Student Becomes Face of Obama Immigration Policy


Jonsson, Patrik, The Christian Science Monitor


Obama administration gives Daniela Pelaez, a Miami high school valedictorian, a deportation reprieve. Her case affords the White House a political test of its new 'prosecutorial discretion' immigration policy.

The Obama administration has given a reprieve to a high- achieving Florida high school student, Daniela Pelaez, a Colombian national who faced deportation before graduating as valedictorian of North Miami High School.

Daniela's fight to stay in the United States, to which she emigrated from Colombia as a 4-year-old, will continue despite the deferral handed down by the US Department of Homeland Security, but she'll be able to graduate with her class in June and start preparing for college. She has a 6.7 grade point average and wants to attend an Ivy League school in the US.

The administration's decision Tuesday to defer a deportation order, which had been issued by a federal judge Feb. 27, is likely to make Daniela the poster child for Obama's tweaked immigration policy that pursues "criminal aliens" first and deemphasizes deportation for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who are children or seniors, or who have strong family ties to the US.

Critics say Obama's "prosecutorial discretion" memo issued last year undermines the authority of federal immigration agents, many of whom criticize the new policy as unmanageable and preferential.

Lawyers who represent illegal immigrants, meanwhile, say the record on Obama's new immigration policy indicates it's not working as his administration said it would - despite high-profile cases such as Daniela's. The percentages of people being deported for criminal reasons have decreased, they note, while deportations for those with simple immigration violations have inched up in recent months.

The prosecutorial discretion memo "is being ignored, and I believe in the vast majority of cases, not a single favorable exercise of the memo has not involved a major news story," says Matthew Kolken, an outspoken immigration attorney in Buffalo, N.Y.

While Obama has received flak from Hispanic groups for the record numbers of deportations he has overseen as president, he continues to enjoy support of Hispanic likely voters by a 69-to-20 percent margin over his Republican presidential challenges, according to a Fox News poll. …

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Allowed to Stay, Miami Student Becomes Face of Obama Immigration Policy
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