Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Student Steve Li being released from detention


A week ago, it seemed there would be nothing stopping the deportation of San Francisco student Steve Li to Peru, where the 20-year-old Chinese-American was born while his family was living there. Now, a few days after the intervention of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein temporarily halted his removal from the country, he is being released from an Arizona detention center and is on his way home.

Inside Bay Area and other outlets reported earlier today that Li would soon be on his way back to San Francisco via Greyhound bus, according to his lawyer. From the story:

He will remain under supervision and must regularly report to immigration officers once he is back in the city, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

News of his release came hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private relief bill in Congress on behalf of Li. The bill, if enacted, would grant Li a green card allowing him to permanently reside in the United States. Congress rarely passes such bills, but the mere introduction of the private bill effectively halted Li's deportation.

Last weekend, Li's deportation appeared to be a done deal, with his removal to Peru planned for last Monday. A San Francisco Bay Guardian headline from a week ago read: “Only a miracle can save Steve Li now.”

Li's story drew national attention in part because of its unusual nature: He was born to Chinese immigrants living in Peru, where spent his first eleven years. His family then came to the United States and applied for political asylum. They lost their bid and were ordered deported, but stayed. Meanwhile, as Li continued growing up, his parents didn't tell him he was here illegally.

The City College of San Francisco nursing student was arrested in his home by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in September. His parents were also arrested, and later released on electronic monitoring. They could be deported to China if their native country agrees to take them back. But since Li was born in Peru, he is considered to be a Peruvian national.

Li could still be deported, but the Democratic senator's relief bill on his behalf will at least buy him time to witness the outcome of an upcoming vote on the DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation that would create a path to legal status for undocumented youths attending college or joining the military. A vote is expected after the Thanksgiving break. Feinstein supports the measure.

Yesterday, in a comment posted on Multi-American regarding Li's story, Felix Huancas wrote:

Give him the opportunity to stay and prove what he is capable to do once he will get a nursing degree. He is not a criminal, he is a nursing student who just want to serve this country, this country has been his homeland, you are sending him to a country where he has no hope or family.