Lidiane Carmo’s family came to the United States twelve years ago. Lidiane was only a toddler at the time. They arrived here from Brazil with nonimmigrant visas, but they remained after the visas expired. According to friends and relatives, the family always wanted to become legal U.S. residents, but they never had a legal mechanism to do so. The family settled in suburban Atlanta, where Lidiane’s father co-founded a church and became one of its pastors. By all accounts, Lidiane became a “regular American girl.” She has little knowledge of her native Brazil and can barely speaks Portuguese.
Today she is a high school freshman, age 15, who has survived an unspeakable tragedy. On January 29, she and her family were returning home from Orlando, Florida, where they had attended a church conference. They were involved in a massive car accident, allegedly brought on by smoke from a brush fire that blinded drivers on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. Lidiane’s father, mother, and 17 year-old sister died in the crash, along with her uncle and his girlfriend. Lidiane was the only survivor from her family’s vehicle, a church van. The multi-vehicle crash killed a total of eleven people and injured eighteen more. Lidiane suffered serious injuries requiring at least two surgeries so far.
Her community immediately began to worry that, without legal immigration status and no immediate family, immigration authorities would try to deport her. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) quickly responded that they had no intention of doing so. “Reports of her facing deportation are completely false,” said an ICE spokeswoman.
ICE cited the policy of the Obama administration, announced last summer, to prioritize certain individuals for deportation. Lidiane’s case is very low on the list of priorities. The director of ICE issued a memorandum last June encouraging ICE officials to use discretion in pursuing deportations and listing factors for officials to consider. The highest priority group consists of convicted and violent criminals, threats to national security, and repeat offenders of immigration laws. Lidiane, who came to the U.S. at the age of two and knows no other home, is a very low priority for ICE.
Lidiane’s community has come strongly to her support. Members of her church are determined that she not have to return to Brazil. Politicians, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, have issued statements of support. Her church is also turning to the community for help with funeral expenses and legal costs.
She may have an opportunity to obtain a green card through a process known as Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. Obtaining this status would get her a green card and an eventual path to citizenship. A state court would have to declare that she is a dependent of the court, also known as a ward of the state. The court would also have to make a finding that it cannot reunite with a parent for any one of a number of reasons, and that it would not be in her best interest to return to her last country of residence or home country. Hopefully she will be able to avail herself of this option.
Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people understand and navigate the U.S. immigration system, which includes the constantly-changing politics of our immigration laws. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us through our website or at 877-479-4USA (4872).
Memorandum on Prosecutorial Discretion from ICE Director John Morton (PDF), June 17, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
More Blog Posts:
USCIS Grants Deferred Status to Man on Tourist Visa So He May Care for Sick Husband, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2012
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Will Likely Cause a Surge of Deportation Appeals by Those Who May Qualify for Discretion, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, February 14, 2012
After Review of Pending Deportation Cases, One in Six Get a Reprieve, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, January 26, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Brasil!’ by Leonardo Barbosa on stock.xchng.