LIVE VIDEO: Show Me St. Louis    Watch
 

Lauren Gray forced to deport herself

10:23 PM, Jul 25, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
Lauren Gray

By Mike Bush

Trenton, MO (KSDK)- The small town of Trenton, Missouri is 250 miles from St. Louis. It's places like this, out in the country, that are the backbone of our country.

"This is a really nice place to live and a really good community," said longtime resident Ali Gray.

But at Trenton's Lakeview Motor Lodge and Restaurant, these are difficult days for Gray and her family who've owned the place since 1995.

"I think everybody that knows them, they're just heart broke about it," chirped Lakeview customer Larry Moore.

The Grays are British citizens, and though they've been here legally for the better part of two decades, their daughter Lauren is scared. She's just days away from deporting herself back to England.

"Scared is an understatement," said Lauren. "I have so many emotions running through my head at any time during the day."

Lauren has lived in the United States since she was four. She went to grade school here and highschool and she recently graduated from Stephens College in Columbia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. But unless there is some kind of last minute reprieve, she will have to continue to her training in Britain.

On August 8, she turns 21 and will be bumped off her parents visa, meaning she would be be here illegally.

"All doors are shutting over here. Thousands of doors," she said.

Lauren desperately wants to become a citizen and her grandparents started applying for her green card when they became naturalized citizens back in 2003, but the wait continues.

"We realized that time was getting short but we hoped and prayed that it would happen before 2012," explained Ali.

Customers at the restaurant and hotel have been signing a petition to try and get the attention of lawmakers.

"They don't want her to leave," said Lakeview employee Lonna Sizemore. "She's grown up here."

"It's horrible," said Ali. "I feel dreadfully guilty. I hate that I'm putting her through this."

Back in June, the Department of Homeland Security stopped deporting law abiding immigrants who were brought to this country illegally by their parents or others. It was part of a new initiative called the "deferred action request." This was for children who knew no other country but the U.S., but it didn't help Lauren because she came here legally.

"You could say she fell through the gaps but I think a better way of saying it is that our immigration system is broken," said immigration attorney Ken Schmitt.

Schmitt works in St. Louis and while he isn't connected with the Gray case, he says he deals with heartbreaking stories like this everyday.

"If I were her lawyer I'd tell her you have to leave at this point if you have to maintain your status. Do our clients always do that? No," said Schmitt. 

And though she knows the immigration service won't be knocking on her door to throw her out, Lauren says staying here illegally is not an option.

"Because we've done things right for 17 years and I don't want to jeopardize getting my green card in a year," said Lauren.

So, next week Lauren Gray will pack her bags for London to go live with an aunt, leaving behind a younger sister and her mom and dad.

"Yeah, we're very close," she said through tears. "And it's just going to be really hard."

It could take a year or more but Lauren says will wait until her name finally comes up, so she can return to the only home she has ever really known.

Note: NewsChannel5 contacted the immigration service but they told us they can't comment on specific cases. We also contacted Senator Claire McCaskill's office to try and see if something could be done for Lauren and cases like hers, but we didn't get a response before airtime.

To sign Lauren's petition, visit change.org.

 

KSDK

Most Watched Videos