Teen Fighting To Stay In U.S., Congressman To Push STARS Act

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Daniela Pelaez arrived back in South Florida Friday morning flanked by a congressman. The Colombian born teenager was just days away from being sent back to her country last week. Now she is wrapping up a whirlwind tour.

Pelaez, along with her sister Dayana, won a two year immigration reprieve thanks to the rallying effort by her fellow students at North Miami Senior High.

Upon getting the chance to stay she found herself suddenly in Washington DC courting congress.

“It was a great experience to see how different their opinions may be but in the end their goal is the same. And it’s to help students like me.” Palaez told CBS4 News Friday morning.

Palaez is now becoming a poster child for immigration reform.

She has teamed up with Representative David Rivera to push a new bill similar to the Dream Act called the STARS Act.

“Hopefully we can bring some solution and resolution to this problem,” Rivera said.

The STARS Act is short for Studying Towards Achieving Residency Status. It would allow high school graduates accepted into college the chance to stay in the U.S. for up 10 years and beyond. The first five would be to go to college. Upon graduating they get another five years. After the 10 years they are eligible to apply for full citizenship.

To be eligible the student has to be under the age of 18, lived here at least five years, and show good moral conduct for 10 years.

Rivera said it’s the right thing to do.

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

The bill is crafted for students like Daniela to stay in the U.S. She plans to push in the months ahead.

Palaez said proudly, “I’m more determined more than ever to help the millions of kids because I don’t want them ever to be in the position I am in.”

Daniela has been in the U.S. since she was 4. Her brother serves in the U.S. Army and has become a U.S. Citizen. Her mother is in Colombia where she has been stuck since 2006 after she returned there for medical reasons and her father is a legal resident.

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