See update below.
In theory, 18-year-old Daniela Palaez is an illegal immigrant to the United States. In reality, she grew up as an American, having been brought here at the age of 4. Her family entered the country on a tourist visa but remained illegally. Daniela was probably not involved in their decision.
Here in America she has done well. She has a high GPA at North Miami High School in Florida, where she’s scheduled to be the valedictorian of her graduating class. She hopes to attend an Ivy League school and eventually become a doctor. If she stays here in the U.S., odds are she’ll end up paying taxes many times greater than the cost of her education, so allowing her to stay in the only country she knows would among other things make more financial sense than sending her someplace else.
But as ABC News reports, Daniela has received a deportation order. Yesterday thousands of people turned up outside her school to support her, including Miami Dade School Superintendent Alberto Caravalho, who declared, “over my dead body will this student be deported,” as the crowd cheered. Several members of Congress support letting her stay. Daniela has an attorney who is going to file an appeal.
A bipartisan bill called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (or DREAM) Act would allow Daniela and other young people in a similar situation to avoid being ejected from what is in fact (if not in theory) their home country. Originally proposed by Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), the DREAM Act would allow promising students in similar situations to remain in the U.S., provided they stay out of trouble and either serve in the military or attend college.
(Daniela’s brother, by the way, is in the U.S. Army and has served in Afghanistan.)
The Congressional Budget Office studied the bill as it stood as of the end of November 2010 (the most recent version is not much different) and concluded that the DREAM Act would bring in an additional $2.3 billion or so in federal taxes over the next 10 years, and even after taking into account the additional costs resulting from letting the students stay, the net gain for the country over the decade would be about $1.4 billion. A longer-term study from UCLA projected that DREAM Act beneficiaries, as they earn more money over time, would pay a total of at least $1.4 Trillion — that’s Trillion with a T — in additional taxes over the next 40 years.
Democratic and Republican leaders, including President Obama, have been calling for the act’s passage, but so far it remains stalled in Congress.
Update: The Miami Herald reports that Daniela Pelaez will be permitted to remain in the U.S. for at least another two years.