An immigration judge on Monday ordered the deportation of a high school valedictorian who was brought illegally to the United States by her parents when she was 4 years old.
Daniela Pelaez attends North Miami Senior High School and earned nearly all A's in the school's international baccalaureate program. Her ability to go to college is threatened substantially by her immigration status.
"They are trying to kick me out, in layman's terms," Pelaez said.
Pelaez left Colombia with her parents in 1998. Her parents entered the United States illegally and divorced before Paleaz could become a citizen. She told NBC Miami that she has no memory of Colombia and loves her friends and this country.
"I've been asked the question before: 'Do I feel American?' or 'Do I believe I am?'" she said. "And I don't think it's a question. I'm American. I know the national anthem. I know the laws. I know what it is to be an American."
Her friends in the same honors program say the issue is "unbelievable" and are vowing to fight.
"The law and the judge, they see her as a statistic," said her best friend Emily Sell. "And we're trying to put a face on a cause."
Pelaez said that there are some students who are citizens who do not care about school, while she tries her best.
"But apparently my best isn't good enough for some people up in immigration," Pelaez said.
But that seemed to change Thursday evening. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement that said it will not take further steps in the case until the conclusion of Paleaz's appeal.
"As Daniela and Dayana Pelaez have reserved the right to appeal an immigration judge's decisions ordering them to return to Colombia, ICE will not take any action against them 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," the agency said.
Pelaez welcomed the development.
"It's a great feeling to know that they were able to respond so quickly," she said after NBC 6 gave her the news.
The principal and students of the high school will be protesting her deportation Friday at 9 a.m.
Pelaez plans to appeal the case and delay her deportation until she starts college.
Pelaez's ordeal is part of a bigger fight for immigration reform. Those who support new laws say this is the reason why the United States needs the Dream Act – to prevent collateral damage of productive, well-intentioned, yet illegal immigrants.
A petition to stop her deportation is available online. To sign the petition, click here.