MIAMI (Reuters) - A Miami high school honors student who faced imminent deportation to Colombia has won a two-year reprieve after 2,000 fellow students took to the city's streets last week to protest her removal from the United States, federal authorities said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said it would defer action for two years in the case of Daniela Pelaez, 18, a North Miami High School senior and valedictorian who was born in Colombia and brought by her parent to the United States when she was 4.
The decision is in line with a move by the Obama administration last summer when it said it was easing U.S. deportation policies to keep low-priority cases from resulting in removal.
Pelaez, who has applied for entrance to several top-ranking U.S. universities, was brought to the Miami area from Barranquilla, Colombia, by her parents, who overstayed their tourist visas. An immigration judge denied her green card request on February 27.
But ICE cited prosecutorial discretion for the decision to defer the deportation of Pelaez after some 2,000 students were joined by teachers and community activists last Friday in a street protest and outpouring of support for Pelaez.
Several politicians including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Cuban-born Florida congresswoman who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, also had written letters to ICE on behalf of Pelaez.
"ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States and returned," the agency said in a statement.
In a decision announced last August, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the government had created an interagency working group to conduct a review of all U.S. deportation cases "to ensure they constitute our highest priorities."
Democratic congressional leaders praised the move and said it would ease the way for individuals who came to the United States illegally as children and already have spent years in the country to stay and work legally.
(Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Bill Trott)