Just yesterday Elizabeth Lee ,18, was facing deportation in two weeks absent some miracle or legal wrangling by her attorneys.
But officials from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency informed her lawyers this morning that they would grant Lee and her family at least six more months in the country while they seek residency.
Lee and community organizers announced the news at a press conference this afternoon at Mission Dolores.
Immigration attorneys Jackie Gonzalez and Francisco Ugarte filed a stay of removal at ICE's San Francisco headquarters this morning. Shortly after, an ICE officer awarded Lee, her brother, Felix, and mother, Melissa, a stay until July when they have to reappear in court.
The Lee family was ordered for deportation last year when they lost their asylum claim on the grounds of being an ethnic minority in Peru. The Lees, who are of Chinese descent, claim they experienced backlash during the controversial presidency of Japanese-Peruvian Alberto Fujimori.
Yet Gonzalez says the Lee family has a strong immigration case in part because the two teens are exceptional students.
"There's really a case to be won, and there's a lot of legal remedies that have yet to be exhausted," Gonzalez said. "We feel confident it will work for those reasons, but we're so happy to have more time."
Eric Quezada of Dolores Street Community Services, whose lawyers are representing the Lees, said the news gave the family personal hope. Elizabeth, a graduate of Lowell high school, is enrolling in City College for the spring now that she knows she'll be able to complete the semester.
She had been accepted to UC-Berkeley for the fall 2010 semester, but her immigration status ruined her chances to go there for now.
"She was so strong today," Quezada said. "She is so quiet but she speaks with a strength that most 18-year-olds don't have. I was inspried by her today."
Photo: Francisco Barradas
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