A rally is planned in San Francisco this afternoon in support of a young woman who was recently accepted to the University of California at Berkeley but now faces deportation because authorities discovered she is in the U.S. illegally.
Elizabeth Lee, 18, came to the U.S. from Peru with her mother Melissa and 16-year-old brother Felix in 2000.
Lee graduated from San Francisco’s Lowell High School in June, which is when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took her mother into custody for being in the country illegally, said Eric Quezada, an organizer of today’s rally.
“This is a talented and hard-working family,” Quezada said. “Instead of being able to attend college this past fall, Elizabeth has to face this.”
Lee’s mother, a single parent, was released soon after being detained by ICE in June, but the family was only given a six-month stay, which ends on Jan. 19.
The two teenagers and their mother will be sent back to Peru unless a case is made for them to remain in the U.S., which Quezada thinks is possible.
“We’re becoming more confident that we’ll be able to stop Elizabeth’s deportation, but you never know,” he said.
Quezada said he couldn’t discuss the legal strategy to keep Lee in the country.
Shing Ma “Steve” Li, a San Francisco nursing student who recently faced similar deportation proceedings, will attend Lee’s rally today.
Li, 20, also from Peru, was arrested in his San Francisco home on Sept. 15 after federal authorities became aware that he was in the country illegally. He had been in the U.S. since he was 12 and didn’t know he was breaking the law.
“I always thought that I had legal status. I never knew that I was undocumented,” Li said in an earlier interview.
After Li spent two months in an Arizona detention facility, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private bill that persuaded ICE to grant him a temporary stay while she worked toward a permanent solution.
“We’re hoping this doesn’t have to go to Feinstein intervening for Elizabeth,” Quezada said today.
Both Lee and Li would potentially have been helped by the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act.
The act would permit certain undocumented students who arrived in the country as minors, have graduated from a U.S. high school, and have completed at least two years of military service or study at a university to remain in the country.
The act failed to pass the Senate in December, but supporters of Lee hope to put some kind of freeze on deporting DREAM Act-eligible minors, Quezada said.
“These cases are just a small fraction of what our communities are facing across the country,” he said.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice was not immediately available for comment.
The rally will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the church that the Lee family attends, Mission Dolores Church at 3321 16th St.
Saul Sugarman, Bay City News