Marie Nazareth González, a 20-year-old Costa Rican student whose struggle to remain in the United States and whose efforts on behalf of other young immigrants have drawn the support of U.S. lawmakers, was granted permission to stay for one more year, just days before her scheduled deportation July 1. Her parents, Marvin and Marina González – who, along with Marie, moved from Costa Rica to the United States in 1991 – were deported last year.
Marie, a sophomore at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, said in a statement on the university’s Web site that she’s thrilled by the news, though saddened that her separation from her parents has now been prolonged.
“I am beyond excited that I will be allowed to continue my studies… however, the moment is truly bittersweet,” she said. “I spoke with them this morning and they were overjoyed because this is what they want for me. We all had a good cry.”
Letters from Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, of Illinois, and Republican Sen. James Talent, of Missouri, to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as advocacy on her behalf by Westminster President Fletcher Lamkin, resulted in Marie’s one-year extension.
The González family entered the United States in 1991 on a tourist visa and settled in Missouri based on erroneous advice from lawyers who told them they’d be able to apply for legal residency status after 10 years. When their tourist visa expired, her parents were deported; Marie, an aspiring lawyer, became a national spokeswoman for immigrant rights, according to the statement.
She has testified in Washington, D.C. and lobbied the U.S. Congress in favor of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the Dream Act. The bill, still under consideration by Congress, would allow immigrant students who have grown up in the United States and graduated from U.S. high schools to go to college on their path to citizenship.
In the statement, Marie said she hopes the bill will become law before next July so she can graduate from Westminster. Should the legislation pass, Marie would face an even longer separation from her parents. They cannot reenter the United States until 2015, 10 years after their deportation, and under the Dream Act, immigrant students would not be able to leave the country for a five-year period (TT, July 8, 2005).