Reported in Miami Herald 3/2/12
More than 2,600 students and teachers at North Miami Senior High took to the streets Friday morning to protest a decision by an immigration judge ordering their valedictorian, 18-year-old Daniela Pelaez of Colombia, to depart the country.
The demonstration, with placards and chanted slogans, was one of the biggest locally on the immigration issue since 2004 when President George W. Bush first proposed the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already indicated that it has no plans to kick Daniela out of the country, students and teachers staged the protest to express solidarity with the bright student who wants to stay here and become a heart surgeon.
The demonstration also served as a stage for two prominent local officials, Superintendent of Miami-Dade Schools Alberto Carvalho and North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre, to voice sympathy for Daniela.
Both immigrants, Pierre and Carvalho, said it was time for politicians and policymakers in Washington to set aside differences so Congress can approve immigration reform, a step that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
Carvalho, who emigrated from Portugal, was visibly moved during the post-demonstration news conference when he and Pierre, originally from Haiti, appeared before television cameras with Pelaez and her sister Dayana.
Carvalho, in particular, said he identified closely with Pelaez because of his past as an immigrant in the United States, sometimes without papers.
"I can hardly find words to express what I feel right now as an immigrant," said Carvalho. "As one having gone through what Daniela is going through today, I cannot say that every moment of my life in this country, that I produced papers. But you know what, I labored, I cleaned tables, I was a waiter, I did roofing, I did construction work and today I'm superintendant of schools. That is the power of education, a power and a right that shall not be denied to Daniela."
Adding that the North Miami Senior High student was "an inspiration" to him and the nation, Carvalho said he would do everything in his power to prevent her removal from the United States.
"Over my dead body will this child be deported," Carvalho said moments before embracing Daniela. "Where is the shame of our nation when we pick on somebody like her. This is a community that cares. We are not a community that turns our back on immigrants, on our young, on the invisible, the fragile. We wrap our arms around them. We protect them."
About Revilla Law Firm, P.A.
Antonio Revilla is a Former U.S. Immigration Prosecutor and Miami Immigration Lawyer. Mr. Revilla founded his immigration law practice, Revilla Law Firm, when he saw a dire need for aggressive immigration representation and deportation defense in order to keep families united.
Mr. Revilla has almost 20 years of litigation experience and has dedicated his career to educating the public on the importance of immigration reform in our country. He has appeared on television to discuss various immigration issues and the benefits of passing bills such as the DREAM Act.