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Miami High School Valedictorian Facing Deportation Gets Temporary Respite

An Immigration case that recently dominated the headlines is that of 18-year-old Daniela Palaez. Daniela has been in the United States since she was 4 years old. Along with her family, she entered the country on a on a tourist visa. Her brother joined the U.S Army and recently came back from a tour in Afghanistan. Her father was able to receive permanent residency through his son's service but her mother who had to return to her native Columbia five-years ago to get treatment for colon cancer was not permitted to return. Daniela's applied for status of a resident in 2010, but that too was denied.

In early March, in a hearing before a federal immigration judge, Daniela was ordered to voluntarily leave the country and return to Colombia by month's end after the request for a green card was rejected.

At the time of the hearing, Daniela attended North Miami High School and maintained an actual 6.7 weighted grade point average. This incredibly high number is achieved by gaining extra points for advanced placement and honors classes. She was fixed to become the Valedictorian of her graduating class. A usual "perfect score" or "A" average is 5.0.

After being denied the green card, the girl who was aspiring to be a surgeon had already made application to quite a few Ivy League colleges. In an interview she stated "Everything I've worked for, it's, like going down the drain in a matter of days… I consider myself an American. [Deportation] would mean I'd leave a country and go back to a country that I don't remember, a country [where] I don't feel at home, and I don't even graduate high school,"

Once the immigration judge's order was grasped by Daniela's classmates, word spread quickly and a crowd in excess of a thousand people formed outside her high school. Many of her proponents were heard proclaiming "justice for Daniela". Miami Dade Superintendent Alberto Caravalho was present among the others and was quoted as saying "over my dead body will this student be deported," to resounding endorsement of the students who attended the gathering

One friend, Emily Sell, who knew Daniela for years, started an online petition on Daniela's behalf that immediately received thousands of signatures on Facebook, with new signatures coming in at the rate of about 200 an hour. The petition ultimately grew to more than 15,000 signatures. In a statement to ABC News, Emily said "My goal is not to make Daniela another statistic, but rather the face of the American Dream… Her possible deportation is very hard for her friends and family and community to hear."

However, at least her departure from the U.S. is not looming. Her attorney said it might be years before her actual deportation could occur. He also said that he is planning to file an appeal that would delay her removal for the time being. She is also continuing in her attempt to get a pre-approved student visa. However, in order for that to happen she would need support from members of congress to advance a request of that type.

Good news did arrive a few weeks later. Her lawyer was contacted by Homeland Security with notice that the order of deportation had been deferred. The Miami office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement made the decision to defer, and not dismiss or uphold, the deportation decision, saying it had "exercised prosecutorial discretion in Daniela's case. According to the agency, they use "prosecutorial discretion," in which they make their decision on all cases regarding immigration and deportation on a case-by-case basis.

Superintendent Caravalho relayed his sentiments by telling "I'm elated over what I believe is a temporary win… I hope this incites a national dialogue that will address the sentiments of students and young people who find themselves in no man's land. It's time for the nation to take on this issue in a non-partisan way."

The case is the latest to renew calls for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposed DREAM Act, would allow undocumented children to receive permanent residency by joining the military or enrolling in college Legislation has been held up in spite of stout support by the president.

To read a previous article on this issue showing its political implications, click here.
The law office of Michael B. Cohen, P.A., focuses its foremost energies on cases that are governed under federal jurisdiction. As a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, in full or in part, Mr. Cohen has been a major protagonist in the defense of an extensive expanse of cases litigated in the federal court system. He has frequently handled immigration cases and investigations throughout his tenure as a federal prosecutor and defense attorney, which gives his clients a clear advantage when his services are retained.

With two easily accessible offices, each located in the heart of the Fort Lauderdale and the West Palm Beach Metropolitan areas, Mr. Cohen's assistance is always in close proximity to a client base that resides in Dade and Broward Counties as well as the Palm Beaches.  

Mr. Cohen is skilled in the defense of cases tried by the State of Florida as well as those presented by the federal government. He takes pride in delivering the best possible result for his client's federal protection, as well as having wide-ranging knowledge of the statutory laws of the State of Florida.