If Lauren Gray’s parents had been illegal immigrants, she wouldn’t be facing deportation.
Lauren Gray, a dancer who turns 21 on Wednesday, has lived in the U.S. since she was just 4, when her parents came here from England. But they came on work visas and, once she turns 21, Gray can’t piggyback on those permits. So, barring a last-minute miracle, Gray is about to leave for “home,” to a country that’s foreign to her. While she is not being forcibly deported, she plans to “self-deport” rather than remain here illegally.
“The U.S. is the country I was raised in,” Gray, who lives in Trenton, Mo., about 90 miles northeast of Kansas City, told FoxNews.com. “I am unwanted in the country I call home.”
Ironically, under the DREAM Act-style guidelines now being followed by the Obama administration, an illegal immigrant in Gray’s position would be welcome to stay while following a path to citizenship. Earlier this year, the president instructed the Justice Department not to deport law-abiding illegal immigrants if they arrived as minors, graduated high school and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years before 2001, though the administration has denied the guidelines amount to amnesty. While the DREAM Act was designed to apply only to illegal immigrants, the Obama guidelines do cover legal immigrants — provided their immigration status expired prior to June 15.
Illegal immigrants can also obtain a six-year residency if they complete two years in the military or two years in a four-year institution of higher learning. Once they earn a degree or complete two years in good standing, they may qualify for permanent residency.
But not Gray, who moved to the U.S. with her parents, Ali and Ian, and her younger sister Gemma, after her grandparents came.
While her grandparents have been naturalized, Gray and her family are awaiting green cards. She thought she was about to get hers before her senior year in college, but one day her priority date got pushed unexpectedly.
“It was moving slowly. We were within nine months of priority date and we got bumped back two years.”
That delay means Gray will “age out” of her parents’ visas before any green card can be issued.
“We’ve been through six lawyers and thousands upon thousands of dollars to make sure we did things right,” Gray said. “I was just so angry — infuriated.”
“This underscores how complicated immigration law is and how, if we put band-aids on it, we’ll draw the wrong conclusions,” Michael Wildes, the former mayor of Englewood, N.J., and a prominent immigration attorney, told FoxNews.com. “We have become such a broken system.”
But Gray has one last shot. Last week, she met with her home-state lawmakers in Washington and pressed her cause to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. Although those lawmakers could not be reached for comment, Gray came away from their meeting believing she might get to stay after all.
“It’s looking hopeful right now,” she said.
“In this country, I was taught that if there was a part of the government that needed to be fixed, you used the justice system to fix it. Immigration is a broken system and I don’t know why someone isn’t fixing it.”
To sign Lauren’s petition, click here.