Daniela Pelaez, the North Miami Senior High School valedictorian threatened with deportation and the new poster teen of the DREAM Act movement, is in Washington D.C. this week. She'll be meeting with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio's office invited her to Washington last week.
Pelaez learned Tuesday that she'll be able to stay in the United States for two more years without fear of deportation. The news came just days after a massive rally at her school propelled her case to the national stage.
The question remains: What does Pelaez's case mean for the DREAM Act? And will lawmakers such as Rubio, who've called for Republicans to moderate their language on immigration policy, change their minds about it?
Her lawyer said both Pelaez and her sister, Dayana, were given a deferred action for two years, meaning federal immigration authorities will not carry out any deportation order during that time.
Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the agency will defer action for two years and cited "prosecutorial discretion."
Pressure from Florida lawmakers in Washington appeared to have helped with Pelaez's case. Last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who oversees U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Nelson also spoke to Napalitano on the phone Monday night, the senator's office said, and she pledged to personally get involved. By Tuesday, the agency had issued a stay.
"Given that the chief missions of our immigration enforcement are national security, public safety and securing our borders, how is it we have the time and resources to target a high-school honor student like Daniela?" Nelson asked in his letter.
Yglesias said the agency is focused on "smart, effective immigration enforcement" to remove immigrants who are criminals, recently crossed the border or have egregiously violated immigration law.
Pelaez came to the United States at age 4 with her family from Barranquilla, Colombia. Her brother serves in the U.S. Army and has become a U.S. citizen. Her mother is stuck in Colombia after returning in 2006 to get successful treatment for colon cancer. Her father, Antonio Pelaez, was able to receive residency through her brother.