Advocates say Steve Li is DREAM Act eligible

Pub date November 8, 2010
WriterSarah Phelan
SectionPolitics Blog

The Board of Supervisors plans to introduce a resolution at their Nov. 9 meeting denouncing the deportation of Shing Ma “Steve” Li, a  20-year-old DREAM Act student at City College of San Francisco, calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to grant him deferred action status, and urging Congress to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

The move comes the same day San Francisco Unified School District Board President Jane Kim (leading in the as yet unresolved race to replace termed-out D6 Sup.Chris Daly) plans to introduce a similar resolution at the SFUSD Board meeting, and a week after City College Board Trustee Lawrence Wong introduced a resolution supporting Li, who has lived in California since 2002 and is studying to be a nurse , but is now in an immigration detention center in Arizona.

“It’s unreal how fast things change”, Li said in a statement made from Arizona, just seven weeks after ICE raided his home and arrested him.

Li, who is ethnically Chinese, was born in Peru as his parents fled political persecution in China. And  ICE is allegedly preparing to deport him to Peru, which he left when he was 12. (Calls to ICE had not been returned as of blog post time, but I’ll update this blog, when I get a reply.)

“He knows no one in Peru,” said Li’s lawyer, Sin Yen Ling, senior staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, as she described how Li’s grandma returned to China, when his grandfather died.

Five years ago, the U.S. denied Li’s parents political asylum from China and issued a removal order. But Li says he was unaware of his immigration situation until his home was raided, and advocates and community members believe his case illustrates how the U.S.’s immigration system tears up families and targets contributing members of society.

Li’s Sept. 15 arrest occurred one week before Congress failed to vote on the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to legalization to undocumented students who’ve grown up in the US and atten two years of college or served two years of the military.

“It’s critical to pass the DREAM Act before the new Congressional session, but Steve literally cannot wait and is set for deportation any day now, that’s why we need our Senators’ leadership today,”  Li’s attorney Sin Yen Ling told me, noting that so far their has been no response from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and that advocates are planning to target Sen. Barbara Boxer, now that the election is over.

In their resolution, Board President David Chiu and Sups. Eric Mar, John Avalos, David Campos and Ross Mirkarimi note that the DREAM Act is “bipartisan legislation that addresses the situation faced by young people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children, and who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble.”

These five supervisors note that each year, 65,000 U.S.-raised students who qualify from the DREAM Act’s benefits graduate. They also note that Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on April 21, 2010 to halt the deportation of immigrant students who could earn legal status under the DREAM Act, which has the support of the House and Senate leadership, all of the relevant committee chairs, the nation’s military leaders, and President Barack Obama.

“I will do whatever it takes to support efforts to pass this bill so I can sign it into law on behalf of students seeking a college education and those who wish to serve in our country’s uniform. It’s the right thing to do,” Obama told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on September 15, 2010—the same day that Li was arrested in San Francisco.

Update: Since writing this blog, I got a call back from ICE’s Lori Haley, who said she was limited in how much information she could share, but sent me this statement concerning Li:

“Shing Ma Li was taken into custody by ICE Fugitive Operations team officers on September 15, 2010, based upon a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge in 2004.  In 2005, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) reviewed his case and upheld the immigration judge’s decision.  Shing Ma Li currently remains in ICE custody while the agency seeks to make arrangements for his removal.”