Legislation & Lobbying

Given Reprieve re Deportation Plan, Illegal Immigrant Brought to US as Child Hopes for Legal Career

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Arrested last year for a traffic violation on campus at Kennesaw State University, a 22-year-old Georgia woman was nearly deported when authorities learned she had been brought to this country illegally as an 11-year-old child.

But, after spending 37 days in detention and attending numerous court hearings, Jessica Coloti got good news today as she rushed to complete her finals before a year-long deferment allowing her to complete her political science degree was to expire on Thursday: Immigration officials said she can stay in the United States for another year, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The news came as a surprise not only to Coloti but to her attorney, Charles Kuck, particularly since his client will be allowed to work. Coloti wants to get a job for a year at a law firm, then earn her law degree and work as an immigration attorney.

The unexpected break for Coloti follows recent news of similar decisions concerning other young adults and may signal a change in American immigration policy, the newspaper reports, even though efforts to pass a law allowing children brought to this country illegally to remain here have stalled. Those who support the DREAM Act haven’t given up on it, however, and President Barack Obama last week reiterated his desire to see the federal legislation enacted.

Opponents object to allowing those who violated immigration law benefit from doing so and point to U.S. citizens put at a disadvantage by illegal immigrants.

Since Coloti’s controversial case came to public attention, her college has taken heat for charging her in-state tuition (it’s supposed to charge out-of-state tuition to those who aren’t legal residents) and a new policy prohibits many state institutions from accepting immigrants who aren’t here legally if they are turning away any academically qualified students.

However, “I think I deserve the right to be recognized as an American on paper because I believe in the American system and I believe in American values,” Colotl tells the newspaper. “I am no different than any other American.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Undocumented Immigrants Arrested at Protest Won’t Be Deported, ICE Says”

ABAJournal.com: “One Year Later, Star Miami Student Still Has a Dream”

Washington Post: “Georgetown student faces a step up or a boot out”

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