Pre-med honor student granted 1-year stay

June 25, 2011 12:56:49 AM PDT
A pre-med honor student from Los Altos, facing deportation, just received a one-year stay from immigration officials. The U.C. Davis student will spend that time fighting to stay in this country and now she's talking about her ordeal for the first time.

Mandeep Chahal came to the U.S. when she was 6-years-old and found out a few years ago she was undocumented. Now she's speaking out for the first time just as the Senate prepares to once again to hear more about the Dream Act.

"I belong here and people like me absolutely belong here," said Chahal.

This is the first time Chahal has spoken on camera about being in the U.S. illegally, about her near deportation Tuesday and about her uncertain future.

"Being undocumented is like carrying around a big secret with you at all times," said Chahal.

Chahal and her mother left India and came to the U.S. illegally in 1997, seeking asylum. It was denied. They were suddenly on ICE's radar last fall when agents required the 20-year-old to wear an ankle monitoring device. Then last week the deportation order came down and in the 11th hour, ICE granted a one-year stay of deportation.

"She's a young person that came here not through her own choice and who has grown up in the United States and shown herself to be a very committed member of the community," said attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla.

Chahal is at U.C. Davis in the honors pre-med program and was voted "most likely to save the world" by her high school class.

"I feel very badly for her and I'm sure that once that she's in this country legally, she's going to be a great asset to our country, but she has to do it legally," said tea party supporter Lisa Cohen.

Chahal is now in the center of the on-going immigration debate. She's flying to Washington D.C. next week to join other undocumented students to speak out in favor of the Dream Act, which seeks to grant citizenship to undocumented college students.

"I know it's worth going to D.C. to fight for the America that I've grown up in," said Chahal.

Meantime, Senate hearings about the Dream Act begin Tuesday.

"It isn't fair to all of the people who go through all of the legal steps to acquire citizenship," said Cohen.

Meantime, ICE attorneys will let Chahal know more about her case and her future on Monday.


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