A North Miami Senior High School valedictorian, who was facing immediate deportation but got a two-year reprieve, is now helping draft legislation that could let her stay in the U.S.
Daniela Pelaez flew back to Miami on Friday with Representative David Rivera, her attorney and her sister, Dayana Pelaez, who is fighting for her own legal status as well. The sisters met with lawmakers in Washington about immigration issues.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Pelaez. “I’m more determined than ever to help millions of kids because I never want anybody to be in the same position that I am in."
Last week a judge ordered her to be deported. The 18-year-old came to the U.S. with her family from Colombia at the age of 4. The family illegally overstayed a tourist visa.
"Their goal is the same… to help students like me so this doesn’t happen again regardless of what political party,” she said.
After receiving massive support from classmates, the community and lawmakers, she was granted a two-year on Tuesday that will allow her to stay in the country.
Now, she’s the face of Representative David Rivera’s legislation proposal known as STARS: Studying Toward Adjusted Residency Status. It would apply to students like Pelaez.
“This case of Daniela is not just about her but thousands and thousands of other students,” said Rivera.
Rivera's communications director Leslie Veiga said the proposed law would apply to students who are accepted into “a four year-institution of higher learning.”
They must be no older than 18-and-a-half he explained, noting the congressman was still tweaking his proposal that could be filed as early as Friday.
“I’m really excited for it,” said Daniela, whose legal team is still seeking permanent legal status for the sisters.