Jessica Colotl, now 22, was arrested on charges of driving without a license following a traffic stop last spring. She was turned over to immigration authorities and nearly deported. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a year ago deferred action on her case for a year to allow her to finish her studies at Kennesaw State University. That delay was to expire Thursday, but ICE has once again deferred action on her case.
"ICE uses discretion on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate, and has the authority to grant a deferral of removal action based on the merits of an
individual's case and a review of specific facts," an agency spokeswoman said in an email.
Colotl's lawyer, Charles Kuck, recently filed for an extension of her deferred status and said he was pleasantly surprised that ICE acted so quickly.
"We so much appreciate ICE's professionalism and compassion in this matter," Kuck said. "They have been exemplary to deal with."
Colotl is set to graduate next week from KSU and hopes to work for a year before applying to law school. She is majoring in political science, with a minor in French.
Colotl's troubles began March 29, 2010, when she was stopped by KSU police officer Sgt. Kevin Kinsey for allegedly impeding the flow of traffic. She told him she had a Mexican driver's license, but couldn't find it. When she failed to produce it by the next day, she was arrested and booked into the Cobb County Jail on charges of driving without a license and blocking traffic. The jail participates in the federal 287(g) program, aimed at fighting illegal immigration. Colotl was turned over to immigration authorities, who moved her to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala., on April 1.
With the help of KSU attorneys, Colotl was granted a deferment. She was released by federal immigration authorities on May 5, 2010.
In November, she was convicted in Cobb State Court of driving without a license and sentenced to three days in jail and fined $1,000. She has appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which could hear oral arguments this month and render a decision by the end of the year.
Prompted in part by outcry over Colotl's case, the Georgia university system last fall adopted a policy that bars its schools from accepting illegal immigrants if they've rejected academically qualified applicants in the prior two years.