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UPDATE: Eleventh Hour Effort to 'Save Mandeep' From Deportation Appears Successful

Pre-med student, once voted 'Most Likely to Save the World' at Los Altos High, gets a stay.

Mandeep Chahal was voted 'Most Likely to Save the World' in 2009 by her classmates at . The sophomore at UC-Davis appeared to be on track, declaring an ambitious major that included neurology, physiology and behavior, in preparation for medical studies.

But, it turns out, it was her classmates who rallied on Facebook to save her, first.

On Tuesday at 8 a.m., Chahal and her mother, Jagdish Kaur, reported to immigration authorities, having exhausted eight years of appeals. It had been a frustrating and disappointing end as they waited for their lawyer to try one more time before the 1 a.m. deportation flight to India took off.

By 9:45 a.m., as immigration reform advocates were holding a teleconference to describe her plight as a test case for new guidelines on prosecutorial discretion issued last week, the pair was granted a stay.

"Mandeep and her mother have been released, though their situation has not been fully resolved," said Kalpana Peddibhotla, the attorney for the pair, referring to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fall. "I am in communication with the DHS and am hopeful we will have a definitive resolution to their case soon.

"I and the family wish to thank the thousands of supporters from around the country who have advocated on their behalf, without which I am fairly certain that Mandeep and her mother would have been deported."

It went to the eleventh hour, immigration reform policy advocates said, despite the memo issued Friday by John Morton, director of ICE that specify deportation proceedings can be deferred in cases of students like Chahal. The memo (contained in the pdf section above) spells out several categories of people for which care should be taken before deportation, and dictates that decisions be made early in the process so resources are not needlessly expended.

During a teleconference Tuesday, immigration policy experts said the Mountain View resident's case would be the first test of the June 17 "Morton Memo," that has sought to repair the damage by the Secure Communities enforcement effort.

"If there is ever a case of the kind of person we want in our society, this is it," said Robert Freeman, her Los Altos High history teacher, who founded a non-profit organization with Chahal, One Dollar For Life, that builds schools in the developing world.

"It is a horrific travesty," he said. Chahal would have been a candidate for the DREAM Act, which failed passage earlier this year.

While her lawyer worked feverishly for a stay, her childhood and college friends  coalesced quickly over the past three days. They were not giving up without a fight, marshalling Facebook, phoning California's two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and U.S. Rep Anna Eshoo.

"Our community is where Mandeep belongs, and she deserves to stay," Julia Duperrault, who met Chahal as a 7th grader at Egan Jr. High School. She describes her on the "Stop the Deportation of Mandeep Chahal" Facebook Page as "without a doubt, my best friend."

Duperrault had attended Bullis Purissima School and Chahal to Santa Rita School, but when they met at Egan, they became fast friends, and cheered each other on in their activities. Chahal became president of the Amnesty International Club, and emceed for the "Jamnesty" music fundraisers for Haiti at in Mountain View.

"We graduated side by side," Duperrault said. "My little brother and her little brother have been friends. Our moms have been soccer moms together."

Chahal's supporters say that she fits the ICE criteria amply and deserves a deferment of deportation. The Morton memo explicitly states that the agency should consider a person’s length of time in the U.S., whether she entered the country as a young child, whether she is pursuing a degree of higher education, and whether she meets the agency’s enforcement priorities before carrying out a deportation, contends America's Voice, an immigration organization, self-described as founded to promote "commonsense immigration reform."

According to Chahal's advocates, their case began in 1997, when Chahal's mother came to the U.S. with her and applied for asylum. As sometimes happens with the first lawyer an immigrant retains, Chahal's mother did not receive a fair hearing when the case was finally heard in 2003, said Jeanne Butterfield, special counsel, of The Raben Group, who was on the teleconference. Attempts to reopen the case took several years and the deportation order was exercised despite the ongoing appeal. 

Immigration reform advocates contend that Chahal's case never should have gotten this far. Prosecutorial discretion has already allowed agents in the field to make decisions about individual cases using the agency's guidance about priorities, they contend.

Priya Murthy of the South Asian Americans Leading Together, called the case "simply appalling." Asian and South Asians comprise a large number of the undocumented which span all classes, she said. Indians alone, are the sixth largest group of undocumented immigrants she said.

High school teacher Freeman called Chahal "one of the two or three most-memorable students among the thousands" he has taught, describing her presence as "magical."

"One Dollar For Life" won the 2009 Outstanding Youth Philanthropy of the Year award from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Without Mandeep's work, the group, which has built schools in Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Indonesia—nor the award—would not have been possible, Freeman said. He further cited her work in Amnesty International and in human rights organizations, but it was her "grace," as he put it that set her apart.

"It's hard to describe, it's as if she is able to gather up into herself all the pains of the world and convince people to act on a cause larger than themselves."

Support began to build after a small article by Jasmine Xu on the Los Altos High School publication, The Talon's online edition was linked from Facebook Sunday. Her friends and their mothers have been calling Sens. Boxer and Feinstein's offices, Rep. Eshoo's office, and faxing the ICE via a participation page on America's Voice.

A copy of the Morton Memo is contained on a pdf document above.

commuter June 21, 2011 at 09:06 PM
The problem is that there are so many different immigrant rights groups that don't work together, even though they face the same INS (or whatever it is called now) bureaucracy. Asian immigrants, Latino immigrants, European immigrants, etc. really need to work together on immigration reform. If they can learn to speak with one voice, then the Feds will listen. Separately, their voice is too weak and easy to ignore.
freda June 21, 2011 at 10:30 PM
ITS RIDICULOUS THAT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GET AWAY WITH BREAKING THE LAW BY COMING HERE ILLEGAL... BUT THE UNITED STATES ENFORCES THE LAW ON LEGAL AMERICANS... PERSONALLY I KNOW HISPANIC IMMIGRANTS THAT HAVE COMMITED CRIMES GET DEPORTED AND BACK HERE WITHIN A WEEK OF DEPORTATION... I VOTED FOR CHANGE THAT EVERY LEGAL CITIZEN WILL BE TREATED FAIRLY....ILLINOIS CRIME IS SO HIGH... LIVING HERE 30 PLUS YEARS.... IMMIGRATION REFORM IS REALLY NEEDED I MUST SAY... SECURE OUR BORDERS... SAVE A LIFE AMNESTY... DO RUIN ANOTHER LIFE BREAKING UP FAMILIES...ALLOWING MOTHER'S AND FATHER'S TO FLEE LEAVING CHILDREN IN THEIR COUNTRY.. STARTING NEW FAMILIES HERE ATTEMPTING TO GAIN CITIZEN SHIP BECAUSE THEY HAD A CHILD ON USA GROUNDS.... BARACK LETS RESOLVE THIS....
Amy Collins June 23, 2011 at 02:56 AM
So she should be allowed to stay because she is a 'star student?' She should be allowed to take away space from a legal citizen or someone with a student visa? How is that right? We are facing a budget crisis in our schools as it is (trust me; I go to a state school) and it is HARD ENOUGH to get into classes as it is! The fact that an illegal alien is taking that spot isn't fair. For people to say that she is more important than a 'dumber American' is a BS copout. Take care of the legals FIRST America!!!
Chris Parkinson June 25, 2011 at 12:38 AM
I do not agree with this stance at all. AB540 is just as bad as in 1850 when South Carolina disagreed that anti-Slavery and Tariffs’ were raging and then they said enough and wrote up an secession statement. AB540 does about all of that claiming illegal immigrants have rights where they do not. Mandeep is but another being the scapegoat for AB540 which again will be challenged not on 14th amendment issues of reverse discrimination, but on the plain virtue that illegal immigrants are just that illegal as all our laws state. She should be deported to sustain our Federal laws and not pick and choose who we like and dislike. As far as I am concerned California has turned into a renegade state as South Carolina did, and to tell you the truth it will result in a backlash that could be another civil war. It is backstabbing effort of one horrible Assemblyman that comes from the disgraced area of Bell. I am not surprised such an evil bill came about from there. History will record these days where California is crestfallen. Our country is not for sale. It is not for rent. I will not let what my fathers and ancestors fought for go in vain. Sorry double post. someone here has repealed my 1st amendment rights.
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HELLO My name is Miss Victoria i saw your profile now i will like to share important discussion with you as friend so contact me through my email addresses (elliotsvictoria60@yahoo.co.uk) for picture and other discussion ok

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