North Miami, Fla. – Over the weekend, an 18-year-old decorated student in Miami with big dreams to become a heart surgeon continued her fight to stop a deportation order set to send her to her native Colombia later this month.
"We have until March 28th to appeal our case or my sister and I will be deported back to Colombia," said Daniela Pelaez.
Pelaez, the valedictorian of her North Miami Senior High class, has a 6.7 GPA and has garnered support from the Miami community since her story went public.
On Friday, more than 2,600 students, teachers and community members took to the streets in North Miami to protest the order, holding banners and chanting “Justice for Daniela," according to the Miami Herald.
The local newspaper also said the turn-out in support of Pelaez was one of the largest immigration protests in South Florida since President George W. Bush first proposed the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants in 2004. She is also supported by Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Pelaez also made all the media rounds in South Florida over the weekend to let her story be known. On Saturday, Pelaez appeared on Sabado Gigante, the popular Univision Spanish-language variety show. Then on Sunday she was on Michael Putney’s This Week in South Florida, where she said she was "overwhelmed" by the support
“I’m just the voice for the thousands that can’t speak,” she told Putney, referring to thousands of other undocumented high school students who support passage of the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship in exchange for college or military service.
Pelaez, is in the international baccalaureate program at her high school, and has a 6.7 grade point average.
Seeing my friends, my community, administration, an attorneys helping me, my congress person, it's given me hope that maybe there are people who care for me and may be able to help me.
"I applied to Yale, I applied to Dartmouth, Duke University, Trinity and Wellesley," she said.
But she may be forced to leave the country before she learns if any of those schools have accepted her for admission.
On March 28, Daniela and her sister are scheduled to be deported back to Colombia.
"I've been here since I was 4, I'm American," said Daniela. "I don't know any other life other then being here."
Daniela and her siblings came to America with her parents back in 1991. Her parents divorced, and in 2006, when her mother returned to Colombia for medical reasons, she was denied access back into the United States.
Daniela now lives with her father, who is a resident, but on Monday, a judge decided she and her sister could no longer live in this country.
"So, like my life is over, you know, basically," Daniela said.
Larry Jurrist, a school administrator, would like to see her continue her education in the United States.
"She has a brother whose been serving for two years in Afghanistan and Iraq, so here's her brother out defending the country, and a judge telling her, 'Oh, but you don't deserve to be here,'" he said. "It doesn't make any sense."
More than 3,000 people have signed an on-line petition to stop Daniela from being deported.
"We spread the message through everywhere," said Diego Hitch, a friend, "through Facebook, through parents, emails, faculty, everybody. Everybody's been supporting her."
Daniela's attorney is appealing the court's decision.
"Seeing my friends, my community, administration, an attorney helping me, my congressperson, it's given me hope that maybe there are people who care for me and may be able to help me," she said.
Help that will hopefully let her have the life she's always wanted and worked so hard to get.
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