MIAMI (Reuters) - More than 2,000 Miami students walked out of class and took to the streets on Friday in a show of solidarity with a high school valedictorian ordered to leave the United States by an immigration judge.
A judge on Monday denied a green card request by Daniela Pelaez, an 18-year-old who was born in Colombia and brought by her parents to the United States when she was four. Her lawyer is appealing the decision.
Pelaez grew up in the Miami area after she and her family overstayed their tourist visas. A high school senior, Pelaez said she has applied to several Ivy League universities.
"I can't believe this is happening," Pelaez told Miami's WSVN Channel 7 TV station. When she heard the judge's decision, she said, "I thought, what am I going to do in Colombia?"
Students and teachers chanting "Let Her Stay!" protested outside North Miami High School on Friday. Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho walked out of the school holding Pelaez's hand after the protest.
"Over my dead body will this child be deported," Carvalho said.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement it would not take any action against Pelaez while she pursues her legal options.
The agency said once the appeal was completed, it "will review this matter to determine whether an exercise of discretion is warranted."
Last year, the Obama administration moved to ease deportation policies for many illegal immigrants without criminal records and to allow them to apply for work permits.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, called on immigration authorities to explain the government's efforts to deport Pelaez.
"Given that the chief missions of our immigration enforcement are national security, public safety and securing our borders, how is it we have the time and resources to target a high-school honor student like Daniela?" he asked in a letter sent to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
(Reporting By Kevin Gray; Editing by Tim Gaynor)