Last week, we brought the saga of Andrea Huerfano, a 23-year-old FSU grad from Coral Springs who ran a red light and is now facing deportation. A swarm of activists, lawyers, and students across the country have taken up Andrea's cause. Yesterday afternoon, those supporters got good news. Andrea was scheduled to be released from the Broward Transitional Center last evening, said Ivania Jimenez, Andrea's Miami-based attorney. But not all the news is good.
"Andrea was granted a stay of removal," Jimenez told me yesterday. "That gives us six months to find a way to keep her in the country with her family." After that, if her deportation order hasn't been overturned, Andrea will be sent to Colombia, where she has no family she's ever met. For now, though, "she is grateful to ICE for this opportunity. She is ecstatic. Her mother is ecstatic."
Andrea came to the U.S. eight years ago with her family. Her father was in the process of applying for political asylum when he died in 2005. Though her mother and brother are now legal residents of this country through marriage, Andrea remains in limbo.
When she was arrested last week, after paying a traffic ticket, a political activist group Andrea worked with after graduating from Florida State helped organize a campaign of volunteers who worked tirelessly -- desperately -- to get the young woman out of jail.
"We knew it would take a large coalition of people to make something happen," Caitlin Baggott, a strategic director for the Bus Project, told me. "Working side by side with the student organizers who were able to mobilize hundreds of people on Andrea's behalf -- and do this organizing while they were in the middle of final exams -- has been inspiring and humbling." Andrea has done similar activist work, including campaigning in favor the Dream Act, which would grant residency to immigrants who came to this country as minors, graduated high school, have lived her for at least five years, and show "good moral character."
"It's so great to see someone who has given so much to democracy get so much support from the youth activist community," Baggott said.
There are only a few ways Andrea will be able to stay in the country after her six months, Jimenez said. She could marry an American, of course. Or Congress could pass a private bill just for Andrea, which would then have to be signed by the president. "As you might have guessed, that's a very, very rare occurrence," Jimenez said. The only other way her attorneys see her being able to stay would be if Congress passes the Dream Act, the federal legislation Andrea has campaigned for herself before her arrest.
More on this in days to come.