SAN FRANCISCO – A San Francisco community college student awaiting deportation to his native Peru won a temporary reprieve Friday when U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation halting immigration enforcement proceedings against him.
Steve Li, 20, had been due to be separated from his parents and sent back to Peru last Monday, but federal immigration officials pushed back the deportation at Feinstein’s request while the California Democrat prepared the private relief measure that would allow him to remain in the U.S.
“It’s amazing. It’s extremely rare for a private bill to be introduced,” Li’s lawyer, Sin Yen Ling, told the Contra Costa Times. “It’s clear she thought this was an important case.”
Feinstein said in a statement accompanying the bill that Li moved to San Francisco with his parents when he was 12 and did not know they were all in the country illegally until immigration agents arrested them in September. The parents have been ordered to return to China, where they lived before they fled to Peru.
“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,” Feinstein said. “There is no future elsewhere.”
Ling said she does not expect lawmakers to pass the bill but that its introduction buys Li time while Congress considers legislation aimed at creating a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who graduate from U.S. high schools and go on to attend college or enlist in the military.
Li, who is studying to be a nurse at City College of San Francisco, has been held in an Arizona detention center since early October. His lawyers expect him to be released and reunited with his parents before they are sent back to China.
Feinstein introduced a similar emergency immigration measure last year on behalf of a Philippines-born lesbian mother whose partner is an American citizen.