Photo: DREAMer Olga Zanella on the dat of her high school graduation
Two years ago, Olga Zanella, 20, began her battle with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but the Mexican-born college student has lived under the possibility of deportation since she was a child.
Like so many before her, and since, when she was five-years-old, Olga’s parents brought her to the United States. Things were difficult, but it wasn’t until February of 2009 when things got worse. Olga was pulled over by local police in her hometown of Irving, Texas, and the officer discovered that she did not have a driver’s license. Authorities never gave a reason for the stop, and have not issued any kind of ticket. Police would go on to hand her over to immigration officials, and for the last two years, she has been fighting against the agency that has tried so hard to remove her from the country.
Her case was not going well until just a few days ago, when everything changed.
On April 14th, Olga and her family were summoned by Dallas ICE officials. In a surprising turnaround, ICE informed the Olga that she would be allowed to remain in the country, under ICE supervision, as long as she stayed in school and out of trouble. They made no promises to her family, however.
Monday, the Zanellas presented papers to the agency, officially turning themselves in and requesting some kind of legal immigration status.
“It’s an opportunity we are going to take,” Olga Zanella told the New York Times. “It’s better than being in the shadows.”
Cases like the Zanellas’ are prime examples of the actions being taken by Democratic legislators and immigration advocates demanding that the current administration slow down deportations of undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes. Pressure has been especially applied to stop the deportations of those eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act – a proposal which has yet to pass.
Senate Democrats Harry Reid of Nevada and Richard Durbin of Illinois asked President Obama to suspend the deportation of the DREAM Act-eligible students in a letter sent on April 13th.
The deportation of another student, Mariano Cardosa, 23, was suspended as well. The suspension ended the Connecticut student’s two-year battle with ICE.
Immigration lawyers like Gregory Chen, the director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, say that nationally, the deportation policy remains confusing and poorly implemented.
“The administration needs to make it clear to the public and to the rank and file within ICE that it has a firm and clear policy of enforcing the law within its priorities and discouraging going after cases that are not within its priorities,” said Chen. “But that is just not happening consistently.”