Congressman David Rivera announced today that he will file the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act.
The bill will allow undocumented immigrants who are 18 years and 6 months of age or younger, arrived in the United States before the age of 16, and have maintained residence in the United States for at least the previous five consecutive years, the opportunity to adjust their residency status if they achieve a degree from an accredited four year institution of higher education and meet certain other criteria.
Congressman Rivera was inspired to develop the STARS Act by Daniela Pelaez, an 18 year old constituent who is the valedictorian of her high school class while also facing deportation proceedings. Daniela was brought to the United States by her parents at age four without documentation.
"Daniela Pelaez is a star student. Her dedication to her school work has taken her to the top of her class at North Miami Senior High School. She has already been accepted to the University of Florida and is awaiting acceptance letters from schools like Yale. However, while Daniela should be preparing for graduation and her future academic pursuits, she is instead concerned about possibly being deported," Congressman Rivera said.
"Under current law when a long-term U.S. resident who entered the country as a child, and does not have legal status, turns 18 years and 6 months of age, they begin to accumulate penalty time, which leads to prohibitions from reentering the country for years. Even if they are accepted into a four year college or university, they may still face deportation or be prohibited from coming back to the United States.
"The Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status, or STARS Act, would give these students who seek to further their education an opportunity to get a degree at an American university and earn legal status.
"However, the STARS Act does not ensure automatic suspension of removal or automatic residency. This legislation very specifically focuses on students who have been accepted to four year colleges and universities and have not yet accrued penalty time. STARS Act applicants must show good moral character and graduate with a degree from an accredited four year institution of higher learning to then be eligible for legal status. Likewise, if the applicant fails to meet the necessary criteria, their conditional non-immigrant status will be revoked.
"This bill provides an opportunity for young people, like Daniela, who have established long-standing ties in the United States, and who have excelled academically, an opportunity to fulfill their goals of getting an education and achieving the American dream."