Posted on Feb 06, 2012
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not deport an undocumented Brazilian teenager who lost her parents and most of her family in the horrific multi-vehicle crash that left 11 people dead Sunday on fog- and smoke-shrouded Interstate 75 south of Gainesville.
In a statement sent Thursday to El Nuevo Herald, ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said reports that Lidiane Carmo, 15, was about to be deported were not true.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Miss Lidiane Carmo as she deals with the tragic loss of her family,” Gonzalez said in the statement. “Reports of her facing deportation are completely false.”
A federal official said “ICE has no interest” in the case that suddenly made Lidiane a symbol of the estimated two million undocumented immigrant youths who could apply for residence if the controversial DREAM Act, which is stalled in Congress, were passed.
If the DREAM Act became law, youths who were brought to the United States when they were children could obtain a green card if they are in school or in the armed forces.
“Her case highlights the severity of the U.S. immigration crisis,” said Felipe Matos, a young Brazilian student, also undocumented, who lives in Miami and is a leading activist in favor of the DREAM Act “When you lose your parents in a horrible accident and you’re afraid of deportation, this demonstrates the failure of the [immigration] system in which we live.”
Matos’ family brought him to the United States when he was 14. He is 25 today, and studying business at St. Thomas University
Lidiane arrived with her parents when she was 2. She grew up in the United States, speaks English, and has little knowledge of Portuguese or her native country.
Lidiane’s family settled in Georgia, where her parents belonged to the International Church of the Restoration in Marietta.
Killed in the crash were Lidiane’s parents, her older sister, an uncle and her uncle’s girlfriend.
Lidiane was the only person in their 2012 Dodge Caravan to survive, but she was seriously injured.
While ICE has promised not to deport Lidiane, she still has no legal status.
But a prominent immigration lawyer in Miami, Cheryl Little, said Lidiane could obtain residence.
“Lidiane should be eligible for a special immigrant juvenile visa, given that her parents are deceased,” said Little, executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, formerly known as the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.
“Hopefully she will no longer have to fear deportation. However, it’s extremely sad that it took a tragedy such as this one to allow her to gain legal status.”