Sisters may still face deportation
AVENTURA, Fla. (WSVN) -- A high school valedictorian and her sister, who fought to remain in the U.S. after facing deportation, could still be forced to leave the country.
Eighteen-year-old Daniela Pelaez and her sister Dayana faced deportation earlier this year. In March, however, the Pelaez sisters were granted a two-year reprieve of their deportation.
The sisters received this reprieve following massive protests in South Florida and intercessions from several local politicians.
Daniela graduated from North Miami High School as the valedictorian of her class in June, and in six weeks, she will begin her freshman year at Dartmouth College. On Wednesday, Daniela and Dayana received a letter that informed them that Department of Homeland Security lawyers were opposing their appeal to an immigration judge's deportation order.
The order asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to refuse to hear the sisters' case and to continue with deportation proceedings. This means the sisters could once again be deported. "For the last couple of weeks, I guess I've been living in this false sense of hope," said Daniela. "It saddens me, and it angers me."
"It's like they're closing the door," Dayana said. "They want to help us, but at the same time, they don't give us an opportunity."
The Pelaez sisters believe the move stands in stark opposition of President Obama's recently-announced changes to immigration policy. "Are you kidding me? Your boss just said, 'Don't do anything to interfere with them,'" Daniela said. "There's just a lack of communication."
Last month, Obama ordered Homeland Security to use its discretion regarding young, undocumented immigrants who have clean criminal records. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people under the age of 30 do not have to worry about an immediate threat of deportation, for the time being.
The letter the Pelaez sisters received is a reminder that their fight is far from over. Immigration attorney Nera Shefer said, "This is not the first case in which something is said and something else is being done."
Daniela agreed. "[I'm] here to represent the millions of kids who don't have a lawyer working for them pro bono," she said.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said the letter does not threaten the two-year reprieve the Pelaez sisters were granted. On the other hand, their lawyer says if and when the sisters lose their appeal, they could still be easily deported back to their native country of Colombia as early as April 2014.
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