Pushing The STARS Act

Monday, May 21, 2012 - 2:33pm

Valedictorian threatened with deportation and Florida Congressman team up to promote immigration reform.

Sisters Daniela and Dayana Pelaez joined Congressman David Rivera at North Miami Senior High School Saturday morning to announce that the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act will be filed in a few weeks.

"Daniela will be there with me, in Washington, in the House of Representatives with me to submit what I'm calling the Daniela Pelaez STARS Act," Rivera said.

The bill will 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.

Rivera said he was inspired by Daniela to draft the bill and has spent the last two months finalizing the language of the STARS Act.

In less than two weeks, valedictorian Pelaez will be lobbying for a bill she helped write.

"We've been here for a long time, we were raised here, and we deserve to stay here," Pelaez said as her classmates stood behind her in support.

The Colombian sisters were granted a two-year reprieve in March and since then Palaez has inspired and pushed for the STARS Act.

"I'm very proud and honored that my path has started something and I'm actually making a difference and my community, my classmates who started it all, this is the fruit of our labor," Palaez said.

The STARS Act will allow youth that attend a four-year university to apply for a five-year extension and eventually earn legal status.

Many advocates say the bill is a different and more tailored version of the controversial DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minor Act.

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.

Palaez is going to Washington D.C. with her sister and lawyer on May 30 to support Congressman Rivera and garner support for the STARS Act.

She will attend Dartmouth College this fall and plans to study medicine.

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