A Virginia teenager who was scheduled to be deported a few days after her high school graduation earned a last-minute reprieve Monday afternoon. Heydi Mejia, 18, and her mother, Dora Aldana, 40, were granted a one-year deferral by the Department of Homeland Security.
Mejia and Aldana, the subjects of a story in The Washington Post on Monday, were prepared to leave for Guatemala this week. Mejia was 4 when her mother brought her to the United States across the Rio Grande, and she graduated with honors from Meadowbrook High School in Richmond on Friday. She had planned to go to college, until immigration officials came to her family’s two-bedroom apartment in December, turning her senior year into a countdown to deportation.
The one-year reprieve allows her a chance to enroll in college and get a part-time job in cosmetology, as she had planned. Her attorney, Ricky Malik, has filed a motion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reopen her case, which could lead to a dismissal of the deportation order or a longer deferral.
“It has been an overwhelming week, for sure,” Mejia said Monday. “I’ve had every emotion, and now I just feel so relieved and so lucky.
Politicians continue to argue over immigration reform this election year, and both Democrats and Republicans have proposed laws that would grant legal residency to top students.
In the meantime, President Obama has instructed immigration officials to be lenient with students who came to the country illegally as minors.
A valedictorian in Miami was granted a two-year extension this year after 100,000 students signed a petition against her deportation.
Mejia’s reprieve came unannounced in a fax that arrived at her attorney’s office in the late afternoon. It represented the first step in what could be a long legal process, Malik said.
“The Deferred Action will expire June 11, 2013,” the memo read.
Related: For 18-year-old student, graduation and then deportation