On Wednesday Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) introduced his bill, “Studying Towards Adjusted Status Act” or the STARS Act, in an effort to break the logjam over immigration reform and provide a path to U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
By his side was the “poster child” for immigration reform, a student at North Miami Senior High School and valedictorian of her class, Daniela Pelaez. She received national attention back in March when a judge ordered her to be deported as an illegal immigrant back to Colombia. Following the order, more than 1,000 of her classmates protested and the issue made headlines across the country. The Obama administration intervened, granting her a two-year temporary stay.
Pelaez represents one of the consequences of a porous, ill-defined and only casually enforced immigration policy. She was born in Colombia but moved to America with her parents when she was four. When the family’s temporary visas expired they simply stayed in the country. Her father eventually became a permanent resident but her mother, who returned to Colombia for medical reasons, is unable to return. Daniela went on to perform brilliantly in her studies and currently boasts a remarkable 6.7 grade point average. She graduates next week and has been accepted at Dartmouth College with a career goal of becoming a heart surgeon.
The STARS Act would allow illegal immigrants like Pelaez to stay for another five years and eventually gain legal status if they earn a college degree and meet other criteria. Rivera said:
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Photo: In this March 13, 2012 photo, Daniela Pelaez works on a school assignment at her home in Miami: AP Images