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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DREAM Act Leader Prerna Lal in Deportation Proceedings

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Me, scared?
  • Me, scared?

While President Barack Obama voiced support for the DREAM Act today in Silicon Valley, one of the Bay Area's most vociferous leaders in the national student movement to get the bill passed is now facing possible deportation.

If passed, the DREAM Act would pave the path of citizenship for any illegal immigrants who had been brought here as children -- as long as they complete two years of college or the military.

Students across the country and in the Bay Area have already exposed themselves as illegal immigrants when they publicly supported passage of the bill -- Prerna Lal in particular.

Lal, a Fiji native who came to the Bay Area when she was 14, was the poster child for our coverage of the DREAM Act last summer. She has blogged extensively about the DREAM Act on and details her own predicament on her blog.  She also helped found DreamActivist, the national organization of young immigrants who advocate for the

passage of the DREAM Act.

But all of this attention has seemingly backfired.

Two weeks ago during final exams at George Washington University Law School, Lal received a letter requesting she report to immigration court in

San Francisco for removal proceedings.

As she writes on

I just paid $800 to the State of California in business taxes. And

I'm expected to appear in an immigration court in San Francisco for

this trial. That is some heavy taxation without representation. To make

matters more complicated, my entire family is American and they have

done nothing to deserve this treatment.

Meanwhile, during a speech at Facebook today, President Obama received heavy applause after confirming that he supports DREAM Act-eligible immigrants like Lal.

"If they are of good character and going to school and the military ... why wouldn't we want to embrace them? Why wouldnt

we want to make sure their contributing to our future?" he said. "Why would we want to send them somewhere else? We don't want them starting Intel in China or France -- we want them starting here."

But what are the president's words doing to help Lal?

Lal is eligible for relief under the DREAM Act. She came to the Bay Area with her father, and soon after graduated with degrees from San Francisco State University and CSU-East Bay. She worked her way through college by cleaning an office building, getting paid under the table.

Although the DREAM Act bill is dead for now, Lal doesn't appear to be scared. She was quoted in the George Washington University student paper with breezy confidence despite the reality of her situation:

"I've stopped about a dozen of these cases from happening," Lal says. "I know how to do

deportation defense."

But she might still need some help, which is why Lal's supporters have started a fundraising and petition campaign at They've already gotten nearly 2,000 signatures.

"I think a lot of people are angry," Lal says. "I'm more amused, personally -- they can't kick me out of the country."

Update, 6:00: Lal e-mailed to put her "kick me out of the country" quote in the student paper in more context:

"I was talking about how immigration court backlogs function in a manner that a case like this can continue for up to ten years, while my parent's petition for me would take 5-7 years giving me a green card anyway. So the whole idea of trying to deport me is complete waste of time and money. Of course, they can just make my life really difficult with court hearings upon court hearings all the way across the country, which they are trying to do. It ends up looking like political prosecution, which is why I am more amused than afraid.

But anyway, removal proceedings are actually a good thing sometimes. I can get cancellation of removal and a green card through it as well. Of course, I hope it gets taken care of sooner rather than later because I don't want to be 35, with a J.D. and PhD and still appearing for removal proceedings."

Correction: A previous headline of this post had wrongly indicated Lal was set for deportation, when she is merely set for removal proceedings at this point. SF Weekly regrets the error.


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Lauren Smiley


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