Illegal immigrant gets to stay in U.S.

Nov. 2, 2011 at 8:13 PM
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SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has decided against deporting a 26-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who became a symbol for supporters of the Dream Act.

The San Antonio (Texas) Express-News reported the government dropped deportation proceedings Wednesday against Benita Veliz, who was a valedictorian at her high school and has graduated from St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

"I'm just really excited and very relieved, definitely," Veliz said after U.S. Immigration Judge Bertha Zuniga granted a motion to administratively close her case. "It's been a very long two, almost three years."

The judge told her she was "one of the lucky few," Veliz said.

"I'm definitely going to continue to advocate for the Dream Act," said Veliz, who came to the United States on a bus with her family when she was 8 years old.

The Dream Act, which died in the Senate last year, would provide a path to legal status for some college graduates, students and military members in the country illegally.

But Veliz is still not technically in the country legally, cannot work and if she went back to Mexico to apply for a work permit, would be banned from re-entering the United States for 10 years.

Veliz, a 2006 St. Mary's graduate, was arrested in January 2009 for not having a driver's license and turned over to immigration authorities.

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