A teen facing a deportation dilemma received a rousing show of support at school Friday morning.
Daniela Pelaez has been in the United States since she was 4 years old. Now, her classmates at North Miami High School and even a school superintendent are joining the fight to keep her in the country.
At 9 a.m. as many as 2,500 students, faculty and staff streamed out of the school chanting, "Let her stay" and holding signs of support. They are protesting the court's decision to deport the high school senior and her sister Dayana.
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was among those present in support of Daniela. "Over my dead body will this child be deported," he said to cheers. "I will put my job on the line. There are some things worth fighting for. I will take on anybody who will stand in her way."
A judge decided on Monday that Daniela and her sister had to be deported back to Colombia on March 28. Daniela and her siblings came to America with her parents back in 1994. Her parents divorced, and in 2006, when her mother had to go back to Colombia for medical reasons, she was denied access back into the country.
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. "I just thought my life was over from then on," Daniela said. "I thought, what am I going to do in Colombia?"
Daniela is a senior at North Miami Senior High School where she is in the international baccalaureate program and has a 6.7 grade point average. "I applied to Yale, I applied to Dartmouth, Duke University, Trinity and Westley," she said.
Karen Rodriguez, a teacher at the school, wanted to use this as a teachable moment. "It's kind of like a slap in her face," she said, "and I really want my students to be out here, supporting this, so that they know how important this is."
Carvalho said he is working through legal channels to make sure both girls stay here in South Florida. "Where is the passion and compassion of our nation?" he said. "Have we not bigger problems to solve as a nation that to attempt to deport somebody like Daniela? Somebody whose graduated at the top of her class?"
While there are those who feel the sisters should be deported and should follow the proper steps to re-enter the country, the students and teacher who walked here today, had a different opinion. Emily Sell, Daniela's friend, said, "Daniela has worked her hardest, and Daniela's put the effort in, and she is going through every single channel to make sure that she does this, and she will do this, legally, and she's making sure that she gets congressional support."
"I would just like to thank everybody, my community, the news, my superintendent, especially my teachers, my administration, my school for all the support," said Daniela.
Nestor Yglesias of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement released a statement that read in part: "ICE will not take any action against (Daniela and Dayana Pelaez) while they pursue additional legal options. Upon conclusion of their appeal, ICE will review this matter to determine whether an exercise of discretion is warranted."
Daniela plans to attend a meeting with congressman David Riviera's office later in the day. They will discuss some future options for the teen.