Immigrant family given more time to sort out legal status 

A San Francisco family of three facing deportation this month was granted a reprieve by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday morning, giving them until June to obtain legal status.

Elizabeth Lee, 18, said she and brother Felix, 16, were brought to the U.S. by their mother, Melissa, nearly 10 years ago to avoid persecution in Peru.

The Lowell High School graduate said she and her brother, who currently attends the school, did not know their legal status until 2006, when Melissa was arrested and they spent a week in foster care. In June, she was again arrested following the denial of the family’s request for asylum. At that time, the Lees were granted a humanitarian stay until Jan. 19.

In the past month, legal efforts to prove that the family contributes to society helped buy it another six months here, according to attorney Jaclyn Shull-Gonzalez. During that time, Shull-Gonzalez said, she and her team will continue to seek legal status for the Lees.

“They’ve not exhausted all their options,” the lawyer said, declining to be more specific.

The additional stay was announced at a rally supporting the family outside Mission Dolores Church on Thursday.

Eric Quezada, an organizer with Dolores Street Community Services, said his organization will do all it can to help the family. “We have a strong case and I think they will be permitted permanent status,” he said.

The family’s situation is similar to that of another San Francisco student who faced deportation last year. Steve “Ma” Li, a nursing student at City College of San Francisco, was detained after authorities learned that he illegally immigrated at the age of 12.

Such students and their families would have been spared from deportation if the federal DREAM Act — which would have enabled certain minors who entered the country illegally but then graduated from a high school or completed two years at a university to become citizens — had been passed by Congress.

The legislation failed in the Senate in the days before Republicans took over control of the House, which seemingly dooms the bill for the time being.

Lee, who had hoped to continue her education at UC Berkeley and was accepted to attend last fall, now plans to enroll in classes at City College in a few weeks to continue her education.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” she said. “Some days are better than others. We’ve always been prepared for the possibility of leaving. I’m just looking forward to going back to school.”

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