Students, Politicians Rally To Keep N. Miami HS Valedictorian In U.S.

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A quick protest started Friday morning outside North Miami Senior High School on behalf of the school valedictorian, Daniela Palaez, who has been ordered by a judge to leave the country later this month.

Virtually the entire school participated in the protest which saw the students walk one lap around the school before returning to class.

“It’s a great feeling to know that there is like human kindness,” Daniela said. “Because a lot of these people, I don’t really know.”

Palaez has lived here since she was four. Daniela, 18, has spent most of her life in the U.S. In fact, she said she can’t remember her native country, Colombia.

I’ve done everything that an American child has done. I know the National Anthem, I know more about the United States than I do about Colombia. This is my home,” said Daniela.

She’s done so well at North Miami Senior High that she’s now the valedictorian.

“Yeah. I have a 6.7 GPA,” said Daniela.

Even so, Daniela may have no other choice but to leave the U.S. at the end of the month. She was born in Colombia and came here with her parents when she was four.

A few years ago, her mom returned to Colombia for medical reasons while Daniela was in the process of legalizing her status.

A legal back and forth ended when her attorney requested for a voluntary departure, which is different than a deportation. Daniela has also requested a green card from the federal government.

“I just want everyone to understand that it’s not only about me,” Daniela said. “I’m just the face in front of millions of other kids just like me.”

Still, some parents didn’t think the protest was a good use of time for students during the school day.

“It’s great that she’s a good student,” said parent Linda Simmons. “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.”

Shortly after the protest, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho appeared at the school with the girl and said he is supporting her 100 percent and that she will be leaving the country over his dead body.

Carvalho said he would put his career on the line to keep her from getting deported, even though Daniela is not technically being deported.

Daniela can appeal the federal order to leave the country.

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.”

Rubio has not supported the Dream Act

  • Daniel

    “I deserve to be here”

    That sense of entitlement isn’t going to win you any fans in life.

  • dave

    I AGREE with that entitlement statement. NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW just because you FEEL you deserve to be.

  • olga ocallahan

    Daniela shouldn’t be surprised by the insensitivity of ICE. Did you know that resident aliens serving honorably in the US Armed Forces are subject to deportation, even if they were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor?

    • Homer Hazel

      Yes, but foreign nationals can apply to serve in the United States Military and if they serve honorably, they can apply for citizenship during their service.

  • Repubtallygirl

    il·le·gal   [ih-lee-guhl]
    forbidden by law or statute.
    contrary to or forbidden by official rules, regulations, etc.: The referee ruled that it was an illegal forward pass.

    • Atheist

      So your saying she should be punished for her parents committing a crime. I say no! She obviously knows no other life but here in America and while we’re at it she’s probably brighter than you.

      All you repubs go play with “santorum” <-google it

  • John B

    Nothing like a government bureaucracy. Apparently she came here legally and unlike Illegal aliens who come here without passing go or who overstay their welcome, at least one of her parents has a green card but because one went back, she now either has to get a green card when she turns 18 or leave. While she is apparently trying to relate her case to all of the illegals, she seems to be more a victim of red tape. It seems that even the INS recognizes that from their statements. This is a case of the media creating a story and all of the liberals for free for all amnesty piling on the bandwagon. Unless she actually gets a deportation order, this is a no news elevated to the level of a story to fit an agenda.

  • María S.

    LOL Carvalho would never miss an opportunity to appear on camera!

    • nativeamerican

      Carvalho would never miss an opportunity to help education in this county and country, why did congress asked him for ideas? the guy knows what he is doing, educators and parents see results under his administration, no bs. and Maria, were you a valedictorian at h.s.? frustration has no cure…

    • Who Cares1?

      Probably runnig for some Political Seat?? & this Illegal Woman (18 years old soo smart & don’t know the ILLEGAL word?

    • FIFA2012

      Carvalho said about himself last year at a public event that “the school board is a stepping stone to bigger things” – someone put it on youtube, then mysteriously it was taken down

  • holyhosehead

    Oh well..Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out. Follow the rules and you won’t find yourself in situations like this.

  • FYI

    The really sad part about this is that we hardly ever hear stories like this when the person being deported is non hispanic. Even with the Haitians you would only hear about it after the earthquake which is understandable. When my relative had immigration related problems nobody would even write about her situation. Let’s stop this favortism and start treating all people equally no matter what country they are from.

  • jmiami

    She is an illegal. She must be DEPORTED. We are now encouraging peope to break the law and get rewarded for it. Absolutely not. She MUST be deported……… you are entittled. You broke the law and there are consequences….. You must return to your country and re-enter the USA legally….

  • Who Cares1?

    Poor Miami,had many problems,now ONE More(Welfare,Illegals etc..etc & NOT JOBS). City of Third World……Miami Public School, teach America History? & Respect Laws?… Daniela, return to Your Country, ask for Dream Act.. & return all taxes,thru High School..then the American & LegalChildren Don’t paid the High Cost of College & Universities Tuition..

  • Bill Cunnane

    She is illegally here in the USA. Does not matter what age she came here. She should have been deported long ago. How about the officials and students start protesting the lack of immigration law enforcement and the pandering by the traitor in the whitehouse! Time we get tough on ALL illegals and ramp up deortations. Charge the native country for the deportation costs also.

  • American

    I feel I deserve a new car and money and not have to work as long as we are just going to ignore rules and do what we want

  • Madge

    ICE has quotas to fill or they lose funding. Obama has deported more people than George Bush, and in fact, is my only criticism against his administration. It’s a shame and a sin that law-abiding, hard-working and in this case, smart young people should be kicked out of this country. By all means, let’s get rid of the criminals, but not folks like Daniela.

  • Madge

    The comments here are appalling. We have lost our humanity as a nation. I surmise that all these negative comments come from all Native Americans then?

  • jmiami

    She is an illegal alien and needs to be deported. Laws have been broken and in this case, the punishment is DEPORTATION. It would be an insult to all the legal immigrants that are living here!!
    How dare Mr. Carvalho suppose illegal activities. It is a shame. She has no rights

  • jmiami

    Let’s not forget she has been getting a free education and I get to pay the taxes… Let’s not forget all the other services she has been getting for me, while I pay taxes… What is wrong with this picture??

  • S. Esquire

    These comment are from people who forget that this country was built by immigrants. Its a shame how quick we are to turn our backs and shun someone who is innocent. The fact that she ended up in our country is not her fault because she was a child when she got here. I believe she should be entitiled to finish her education where she started it. Upon completion it becomes her resposibilty to take the appropiate actions to become a legal tax paying citizen. We should not denied her the chance to finish high school especially since she had no control over where she grew up.

    • alan

      if ESQUIRE wants to pay for her education let him, I’m tired of paying for everyones free ride in this country.

  • alan

    this illegal immigration is out of control….we gave her a free ride to high school, now she will go to college if our ELECTED politicans have their way. Hey they aren’t paying for her. WE ARE….
    ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL unless you are an Illegal Alien.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Weather Forecast 24/7
Thanksgiving Guide

Listen Live