Miami Valedictorian Faces Deportation Weeks Before Graduating

Daniela Pelaez has already been declared the valedictorian of her senior class at North Miami High School; however, a deportation order has scheduled the 18-year-old student and her sister to be deported to their native Colombia by March 28. Pelaez’s deportation, in addition to revoking her right to the top spot in her school, would also leave her without a high school diploma.

“I’d leave a country and go back to a country that I don’t remember, a country that I don’t feel at home, and I don’t even graduate high school,” Pelaez said to the ABC affiliate in Miami, WPLG. “Everything I’ve worked for, it’s, like, going down the drain in a matter of days.”

Pelaez, who dreams of becoming a heart surgeon, was brought to the United States when she was 4 years old, WPLG reported. Although brought to the United States legally on a U.S. tourist visa, Pelaez and her sister are currently in the country illegally, as the visa has long since run out.

The top student out of more than 800 graduating seniors, Pelaez’s high school teachers and school administrators were shocked to here news of her scheduled deportation.

“My vision for Daniela is this time next year she’ll be finishing her freshman year in the premed program of an Ivy League college, and instead, we get this shock,” Larry Jurrist, school administrator Larry Jurrist, said to the news source.

Despite the deportation order, Pelaez’s case has drawn the support of civilians and government officials from across the state, including Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to the Miami Herald. More than 2,600 students and community members took their protests to the streets on March 2, which became one of the largest immigration protests in the state since 2004’s proposed legislation of undocumented immigrants.