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Valedictorian facing deportation gets reprieve in Florida

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:56 PM EST, Wed March 7, 2012
Florida high school valedictorian Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister have avoided deportation after being granted a reprieve.
Florida high school valedictorian Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister have avoided deportation after being granted a reprieve.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two Florida sisters facing deportation get a two-year reprieve
  • Daniela Pelaez is the top student in her class
  • ICE gave the reprieve under the policy of prosecutorial discretion

(CNN) -- A Florida high school valedictorian and her sister, who were facing deportation, instead were meeting with with lawmakers Wednesday after being granted a reprieve.

An immigration judge ruled last week that Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister Dayana were to be deported for being in the country illegally.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday gave the sisters a two-year reprieve. The decision was made under the policy of prosecutorial discretion, which is designed to prioritize deportation for illegal border crossers with a criminal record, instead of those who pose little or no risk.

"The agency exercises prosecutorial discretion, on a case by case basis, as necessary to focus resources on our stated priorities," ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said in a statement Wednesday.

Lawyer talks about valedictorian case
Valedictorian avoids deportation

The Pelaez sisters traveled to Washington to meet with Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Florida Reps. David Rivera and Frederica Wilson.

Rubio, a Republican, had expressed support for finding a way for Daniela Pelaez to remain in the United States.

"I have always said that our country needs to figure out a way to accommodate high academic achievers brought here at a very young age by their parents but who now find themselves undocumented through no fault of their own," he said in a statement last week. "From what I've read in press accounts, the story of Daniela Pelaez is exactly the kind of case I have been talking about."

The sisters and their parents came from Colombia 14 years ago and never left -- overstaying their tourist visas.

A Miami immigration judge ruled last week that the two girls must be deported to Colombia, leaving the teenagers in shock.

Daniela, a high school senior, has a 6.7 grade point average and is at top of her class out of 823 students, a school administrator said.

The teenager wants to study cellular and molecular biology for a medical career.

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