UPDATE 7:59pm ET: Inside Bay Area reports that Steve Li will be released from ICE custody tonight and will be back in San Francisco by Saturday after he takes a Greyhound bus back to Calfornia.
After California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked ICE to halt the deportation of San Francisco nursing student Steve Li this past weekend, she made good on her promise to try to keep Li in the country. Today Feinstein is expected to introduce a private bill on Li’s behalf, which in effect will halt his deportation and keep him in the country.
"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," said Feinstein’s statement, addressed to President Obama. "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."
Li was scheduled to be deported to Peru this past Monday. He’s been in ICE custody since September 15, when he and his parents were arrested in San Francisco for ignoring a judge’s 2004 removal order after the family’s petition for political asylum was denied. Li’s parents face deportation to China, and would not have been allowed to accompany Li to Peru.
The City College of San Francisco student was caught by surprise when ICE showed up on his doorstep. He had no idea about his immigration status.
"I thought it was a mistake," Li told the Contra Costa Times. "I’ve been living (in the United States), studying here. I feel like I’ve been here all my life. All my friends, my teachers, my family is here."
Li’s story garnered so much attention because the 20-year-old student has no friends or family in Peru, even though he is a Peruvian national. His parents immigrated to the South American country in the 1980s to escape China’s one-child policy and help Li’s aging grandparents, who lived there. It’s there that Li was born before his family immigrated again in 2002 to escape political upheaval in Peru, this time settling in San Francisco. Li made the Bay Area his home, and pursued his dreams of becoming a nurse while staying active in his church and community hospitals. Now he’ll have a chance to get back to school, and be reunited with his family.
Much of his future though, and the future of other undocumented youth, depends on whether or not Congress passes the DREAM Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the bill up for a vote in the lame duck session. While its prospects are uncertain, activists are waging an aggressive campaign to make sure it passes this year.
"My staff has talked with his parents and with Steve in the detention facility," Feinstein continued in her statement. "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.
"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."
Immigration advocates say that Feinstein’s private bill will have to be approved by Congress and signed by the president. Li’s attorney Sin Yen Ling said she and Li’s community of supporters will focus on getting him out of the Arizona detention center where he’s been since October 8 so he can come back to his family in San Francisco.