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The Face Behind the Cause

One student's plight propels the DREAM Act forward.
Daniela Pelaez, DREAM Act
Daniela Pelaez’s medals in her home in Miami. Pelaez was the valedictorian of her class, but nearly faced deportation in March because she was brought here illegally at the age of 4.

Daniela Pelaez is the valedictorian of the north Miami (Fla.) Senior High School’s class of 2012. Pelaez, who was offered scholarships to numerous universities, ultimately chose to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. Although the world was seemingly at her fingertips, Pelaez faced deportation in March because she had been brought to the United States from Colombia illegally by her parents at the age of 4. After a series of student protests and pleas from educators and legislators, Pelaez was offered a two-year reprieve and will work on her case to get a visa while at Dartmouth.

She has been dubbed by many as the poster child for the DREAM Act, which would allow young people who were brought to the United States illegally as minors, who have lived here for at least five years, and have graduated from high school or earned a GED to work toward permanent residency and eventually citizenship. Although Congress passed the bill in December 2010, it was ultimately blocked in the Senate one week later. It has not been brought to a vote since.Daniela Pelaez

The DREAM Act has received new attention in the last few months as Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed a modified version of the bill, calling it a “humanitarian issue.” Rubio’s bill would not necessarily grant residency, but would provide visas to undocumented persons who fit the qualifications. Then, “like any other visa holder in this country—they can get in line and apply for residency,” said Rubio to the Tampa Bay Times in April.