My colleague, Matt O’Brien, has written a great story about how a private relief bill introduced today by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., effectively halted the pending deportation of City College of San Francisco student Steve Li.
Li, 20, has been held at a detention center in Arizona awaiting deportation to Peru. He was born there but came to the U.S. as a child with his parents, who stayed on after their tourist visas expired. Li said he didn’t know his family’s legal situation while he was growing up, and knows no one in Peru.
Bills such as the one Feinstein introduced are extremely rare, Li’s attorney said today. Read Feinstein’s full statement, after the jump…
“Mr. President, today I am introducing a private relief bill on behalf of Shing Ma ‘Steve’ Li. Steve Li is a Peruvian national who, until his recent detention, lived in San Francisco, California. He was brought to the United States as a child and is now a student at City College of San Francisco hoping to become a nurse.
“I decided to introduce a private bill on Steve’s behalf because I believe his removal would be unjust before the Senate gets a chance to vote on the DREAM Act. It is my sincere hope that Congress will consider and pass the DREAM Act before the end of this year. This important legislation would allow youngsters such as Steve Li to continue making a contribution to the United States, the country that they grew up in and call home.
“Beginning with the new session in January, all of my bills are reviewed and evaluated for reintroduction.
“Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from American high schools. Most of these undocumented youth did not make a choice to come to the United States; they were brought by their parents. Many of these young people grew up in the United States and have little or no memory of the countries they came from. They are hard working young people dedicated to their education or serving in the nation’s military. They have stayed out of trouble. Some are valedictorians and honor roll students. Some are community leaders and have an unwavering commitment to serving the United States. Steve Li is one such student.
“Steve was only 12 years old when his parents brought him to the United States. Like many other DREAM Act-eligible youngsters, Steve didn’t have a choice to come to the United States, he came with his parents.
“Steve’s parents are Chinese nationals who fled China to Peru to escape economic oppression and the Chinese government’s policies on reproductive rights. From China, Steve’s parents went to Peru, where he was born. The family then sought asylum in the United States, which was denied.
“Steve was ordered removed along with his parents; however, according to his mother and himself, he was never told about the denial or his illegal status.
“So, Steve didn’t know he was in the United States illegally or that his family had been ordered to leave. He went through all of his teenage years in the United States believing he was here legally.
“This past September, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at his home early one morning in September and took him into custody for removal to Peru. That is apparently when he learned about his illegal status. He has remained in detention in Arizona since October 8th. Steve’s parents have been ordered to leave the United States and return to China. They cannot accompany their son to Peru.
“Steve attended George Washington High School in San Francisco. While there, he was enrolled in the Honor’s Program. Steve was an athlete on the cross country and track team. He worked for the school newspaper as a reporter, editor and cameraman.
“Steve also served his high school community by providing presentations to other students on the risks of drinking and driving and sexually transmitted diseases at the wellness center at George Washington High School. Steve graduated high school in 2008 and enrolled at City College of San Francisco to pursue a career in nursing.
“City College of San Francisco awarded Steve the Goldman Scholarship, which covers the cost of his tuition. Steve has continued his active involvement in his community, joining the Asian American Student Success Center and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program, which is a two-year outreach and educational support program.
“This past summer, Steve attended the San Francisco State University Summer Science Institute, which provided a year-long internship to prepare him for a career in health care upon his graduation from college.
“My staff has talked with his parents and with Steve in the detention facility. It appears to me that the only positive future for Steve is that he be able to finish his education and remain in this country — at least until the DREAM Act is considered by the Congress. There is no future elsewhere.
“With this in mind, I introduce this bill. It is an act of compassion for one young person whose only hope is America. He knows no one, nor has he any roots, elsewhere.
“Educators working with Steve have highlighted his potential for giving back to the United States, while his friends and other community members contacted me about the impact his compassion and helpfulness has had on his community. Enactment of the legislation I am introducing on behalf of Steve Li will enable him to continue to remain in the United States for the time being.
“Steve Li’s case demonstrates why we need to pass the DREAM Act now and I am pleased that Leader Reid has announced that it will be brought to the floor in December. I will reevaluate this case in January.
“Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to support this private bill. I ask unanimous consent that a copy of this bill and this statement be included in the record.”