Sisters Daniela and Dayana Pelaez may be one step closer to helping young undocumented students like themselves adjust their legal status.
The sisters left for Washington D.C. Wednesday to meet with Congressman David Rivera and introduce the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act into Congress.
The STARS Act would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 the opportunity to adjust their residency status if they earn a degree from an accredited four-year institution of higher education and meet certain criteria.
“The legislation is near and dear to me, it’s the fruit of our labor,” Daniela Pelaez told NBC 6. “Our last Washington trip we came back with a proposal and now hope we’re going to submit it to the legislative committee and it’ll come back as an actual bill that we can vote for.”
Pelaez, a senior at North Miami Senior High School, worked with the Congressman to draft the bill that will be introduced to the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives.
“After that, we need to keep lobbying this law. This needs to pass, it’s the only concrete solution for Daniela and kids like her in the U.S.,” Pelaez’s attorney Nera Shefer said.
Advocates of STARS Act have said the bill is a different and more tailored version of the controversial Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minor (DREAM) Act that has yet to pass in Congress.
Under the DREAM Act, undocumented immigrants that arrived in the U.S. before they were 15 years old must complete two years of high education or two years of military service. It is not required that they graduate.
Pelaez and her sister were granted a two-year reprieve in March after facing imminent deportation. The pair has received a flurry of support from local officials, catapulting their case to the national stage.
The sisters also started their own foundation, We Are Here Foundation, Inc. to raise money and provide scholarships, grants and support to student immigrants in the U.S.
“I want everybody that has been in my situation to get help and this is a real and concrete solution we have at this point and we need to pass it to help kids,” Pelaez said.
Pelaez left Colombia with her parents in 1998. Her family overstayed a tourist visa when she was 4 years old. She plans to study medicine at Dartmouth College come fall.