Posted: Aug 8, 2012 9:47 AM by Emily Spain
Updated: Aug 8, 2012 8:36 PM
TRENTON - Stephens College graduate and aspiring professional dancer Lauren Gray no longer faces deportation from the United States back to England. Gray originally planned to leave the country for England at the end of July to avoid becoming an illegal immigrant on her 21st birthday, which is Wednesday August 8. Gray's family moved to the U.S. when she was four-years-old.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill announced Wednesday she worked with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and secured Gray an exemption that will allow her to legally stay in the country. According to an email from the senator's office, McCaskill spoke directly with Gray and staff members talked with the DHS to determine if she was eligible for a waiver that would allow her to stay in the country. The DHS granted Gray a renewable two-year deferral, which allows her to legally live in the U.S. without jeopardizing her efforts to become a citizen. She will also be eligible to apply for a work permit.
Gray took a recent trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator McCaskill and Republican Senator Roy Blunt. Gray told KOMU 8 on Wednesday she's excited about getting to stay in the country and did not expect to get the help she did. Gray said on her first day in D.C. many people she spoke with seemed exhausted by the immigration topic and called the system "broken." However, she said senators were a lot more open to suggestions and ideas Gray presented.
"Basically, what I set out to do was accomplished...but my situation is a temporary fix," Gray said about her deferral. "I still need to help with the bigger picture."
Gray was legally in the country under her parents' E2 investment visa. However, the visa would no longer apply to Gray when she turned 21 because she would no longer be a dependent of her parents. The Gray family members thought they would have their green cards by the time Lauren turned 21. The family applied for the green cards back in 2003 and is still waiting for them.
Gray and her family sought help from politicians and multiple lawyers so she wouldn't have to leave the place she calls home. Many of the options they looked into were not going to be able to keep her legally in the country.