GW Law School student Prerna Lal founded a national organization to fight the deportation of undocumented students in 2007.
Now, Lal finds herself in the middle of another deportation battle – this time for herself.
The 26-year-old was born in Fiji and moved to San Francisco at the age of 13. Lal’s family originally filed her immigration papers when she was a child, but a lengthy backlog on pending immigration cases delayed hers from reaching the top of the queue, and she never received her papers.
She applied for a green card to achieve permanent U.S. residency, in August interviewed with the government in January and was formally denied in March.
Then, two weeks ago, Lal received a notice from the Department of Homeland Security alerting her she is in the process of being deported from the country.
“I think a lot of people are angry,” Lal said. “I’m more amused, personally. They can’t kick me out of the country.”
As a well-known advocate for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act – which, if passed, would offer illegal immigrant students a path to citizenship – Lal said her deportation case is going to blow up in the government’s face. She said she has a top deportation lawyer on her side.
“The people who know me best, the people I work with, are amused as well. They want this fight to happen in court. They’re looking forward to it,” Lal said. “They’re following up with DHS officials and the White House on this. It’s going great.”
Lal is a founder of DREAM Activist – an organization that serves as a network and resource center to support undocumented students and advocate for the DREAM Act, which was shot down due to a fillibuster in the Senate.
“I’ve stopped about a dozen of these cases from happening,” Lal said, referring to deportation cases involving students. “I know how to do deportation defense.”
An online petition to halt Lal’s deportation and place her on track for legal status has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Lal said she is confident the case against her will be dropped within a couple of months, but she is concerned because it surfaced on the cusp of her final exams at the Law School.
“If I’m spending more time doing my deportation defense than I am studying in law school, that’s a problem,” Lal said. Her friends at the Law School plan to hold a fundraiser after exams to help offset her legal fees.
If she were deported back to Fiji, Lal said, her family – the entirety of which resides in the U.S. – would likely be placed on welfare.
“It would be another adjustment all over again,” Lal said, adding that she does not anticipate she will actually face deportation.