Officially a 2L

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Law school | Leave a comment

I should be out partying with other law school friends right now. Instead, I’m holed up in my studio wondering about how to pay for law school next year.

(Unlike U.S. citizens and legal residents, I cannot get loans for school. Grants and scholarships only go some way to covering $65,000 per year).

On my last day of law school exams, I received notice of contract termination from in fantastic fashion. It wasn’t a wrongful termination so I won’t put up a protest. Actually I have a lot to say about the way in which I was fired the morning of my last 1L final and a few choice words for a lot of people, but this isn’t the right place or time for it. I need to move forward in life and put the work permit to good use and get it renewed before November. The bad thing about a freelance contract is that I don’t get to sue for wrongful termination or collect unemployment. Comparably, if you have a full-time job contract and they terminated it to give you a “better position,” you can actually sue. My favorite subject in law school has been Contracts thus far and I’m glad I learned it well to deal with unscrupulous employers in the near future.

I’ve had pretty terrible experiences with employers in the past. My first blogging quasi-contract was with Brave New Films. They had someone acting with authority promise to pay a stipend of $250 per month that never really came through. I blogged for about 5 months and they never had even the courtesy to admit that they could not compensate my work. Instead, they were unjustly enriched and I probably have monetary restitution claims against them. It’s too bad suing them for that minuscule amount would cost me more money. But I hold all their claims of being pro-immigrant or pro-labor or even progressive as completely baseless and insincere. It’s simply inexcusable. And it’s almost like the same cycle that keeps repeating itself.

Video from the #SAALT Summit

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, Immigration | Leave a comment

This is a video of me from the South Asian Americans Leading Together Summit talking lightly about the history of the DREAM Act movement. No, it isn’t as boring as it sounds because I really do take this situation lightly on most days. It’s the best way to deal with it.

If you live in Maryland or Washington D.C., you should definitely consider volunteering with SAALT.

Seriously, consider it a favor for me.

On Meeting the Young Daughter of the Man Trying to Deport Me

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

I was invited, along with my friend Gaby Pacheco, to speak to 5th graders at the Georgetown Day School about the DREAM Act. I almost did not go but I can’t really say no to talking to young kids. Of course, I’m terrified of it as well — it isn’t anything I’ve ever done. Then again, I’ve never taken on the U.S. government either so I figure it cannot be that hard.

I had a great time. Gaby did most of the talking. She’s a natural teacher. I’m more of a lecturer and stood around looking good in a suit. The kids were fantastically engaging, with some of their parents in Congress or state legislatures.

A young woman asked us why we chose to act. I think both of us teared up a bit. Gaby did a great job answering that when someone beside you is getting hurt, you have to stand up and fight. And when that someone is you, I don’t think you really have a choice. I have already stated before that being a Dreamer is like being drafted into a war that you never wanted to fight but you have to do so to survive and protect your family from violence.

We met with one gorgeous young woman, whose father happens to be our very own Alejandro Mayorkas at USCIS, the guy whose the head of the office that sent me a letter to appear for removal proceedings. Mayorkas is one of the good guys. Last year, A. Mayorkas suggested in a draft memo that the President could grant deferred action to everyone who qualified for the DREAM Act. A right-winger got hold of the memo, sent it to more rabid anti-immigrant Senators who leaked it to the gullible media, who then helped to characterize the memo as a backdoor amnesty program. The rest is history.

Next month, we’ll meet with Mayorkas and the kids will ask him to once again push the President to grant deferred action to all DREAM Act-eligible students. I keep wondering how Mayorkas would feel if his kid was the one getting deported and despite having papers, there is nothing he could do for his child. It’s a terrifying thought but it is precisely what my mother is going through right now.

One clever young man appeared confused. He asked us why the President could not simply stop deporting all immigrants. It was a rather simple question and the answer is even more simple. But our President does not seem to fathom the simple concept that maybe we should not deport people who have done nothing wrong. I don’t know why children always seem so much smarter than adults. Maybe we regress with age instead of progressing.

It’s time to start hitting the rich private schools in the area and getting the kids informed about immigrant rights while they are young. They are certain to take it back to the dinner table and ask their parents: why are we deporting such talented, bright and productive young people from the country?

Theory of change. Get it.

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Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic: 21st Century Girmitya?

Posted on by Prerna in Desi | 2 Comments

Prerna Lal, a GW Law School student and immigration activist, faces deportation after spending more than 13 years in the U.S. She is fighting in court to achieve legal status.If you want the definition of “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic” then this article in my school newspaper pretty much sums it up.

Some straight-talk from me, with no pun intended:

“I think a lot of people are angry,” Lal said. “I’m more amused, personally. They can’t kick me out of the country.”

As a well-known advocate for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act – which, if passed, would offer illegal immigrant students a path to citizenship – Lal said her deportation case is going to blow up in the government’s face. She said she has a top deportation lawyer on her side.

“The people who know me best, the people I work with, are amused as well. They want this fight to happen in court. They’re looking forward to it,” Lal said. “They’re following up with DHS officials and the White House on this. It’s going great.”

I feel like I am in a war and people are dropping bombs on my home, my family, my friends and my community. I tend to internalize all my pain and anger and unleash it in the most unexpected places and frequently on the people that love me most. I hope I don’t face retaliation from my school or my professors for my words. Grades are the least of my concerns though, so it hardly matters. I am just trying to keep my family together.

Today, I was struck by this revelation that my great-grandparents left India for Fiji in the 1800s not knowing what the future held for them and maybe fully expecting to go back once the indentured servitude system was over. Maybe some of them were coerced, kidnapped and trafficked thousands of miles against their wishes. The indenture system was certainly not voluntary and most signed up under economic duress and hardship. The Indians sent to Fiji were called girmityas, referring to the “agreement” of the British Government with the Indian laborers as to the length of stay in Fiji. They had to stay and work for ten years. They experienced the most painful, degrading and gruelling conditions in the small Pacific island country.

After 10 years, they stayed. They spun a new fabric for the island nation and became an indispensable part of the country.

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m also a 21st century girmitya in the United States.

I just hope that analogy is not offensive to my ancestors. I have a lot more rights and freedoms than they had while growing up. And yet, I was brought here involuntarily much like my great-grandparents. I’ve been put through the most grueling tests, which continue regardless of my achievements and contributions to this society. I’m waiting to become an indispensable part of this country’s history. Maybe I already am. I don’t know.

Girmit, as in Contracts, is knocking on the door.

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GW Law Student Prepares For The Trial of Her Life

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 5 Comments

Feel free to cross-post this on your own blogs. Please contact Adam Luna from America’s Voice at for press interviews and CC Jackie Mahendra,

My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.

I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.

My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.

So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.

However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.

I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”

Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.

My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.

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Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Law school | Leave a comment

I received a random call from Legal Language telling me that I was receiving second place in some kind of contest. I could not recall what it was and then I remembered this really bad immigration law blog post I had submitted on a website some time ago.

From their website:

  • Second place: Prerna Lal, a student at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC. Her article, “USCIS Reinterpretation of CSPA: A Deference to Screwed Priorities,” discusses the flaws in US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act and how it prolongs the separation of US immigrant families.

I can already hear my mother laughing about this over the phone.

Thank you Legal Language for considering the piece worthy for publication!

I’m getting a $100 for this.

Now I just need to remember what I wrote.

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Updates On the Removal Proceedings

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

A petition on my behalf is up at, directed at the top immigration officials in the country, to stop the removal proceedings. Please sign it, put it on your Facebook, retweet and send it around. We can take the hard-copy signatures to our meetings with Congressional representatives and DHS officials as well so it is helpful.

I’m going to be honest. DHS will spend thousands of dollars over the next 5 years in litigation to remove me from the country and I will still win the right to stay here. The ball is in their court. If they want to play court battles, then I will bring the game to them and teach them how it is played.

They picked on the wrong person. They are kidding themselves if they think they can continue to silently terrorize our families and communities while we sit back and not do anything. This political violence ends now. It ends with each one of us taking the time to learn about the unjust and antiquated immigration system that keeps families apart.

DreamActivist is handling all donations regarding legal fees.

A fundraiser will be held in Washington D.C. on May 6. Stay tuned for more details.

I have been told not to spend more than an hour per day on my case right now while I take exams. So I apologize if I am not more responsive.

This post is dedicated to Jackie Mahendra, who spent my entire morning making me look for a picture where I looked less like a badass and more like a victim. She finally settled on a spontaneous shot of me capturing a speech I was giving at a hearing for the San Francisco City Government more than a year ago.

Please contact Adam Luna for press interviews regarding my immigration case and CC Jackie Mahendra,

Thank you.

The Privileged Dreamer

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, LGBTQ | 2 Comments

I think I’ve heard it all today. Someone called me “a privileged dreamer” and told me to stop complaining about being in removal because he was more undocumented than me.

Alright, so my parents and I did not travel through the harsh border terrains to enter the United States without inspection. They did not work as migrant farm-workers. None of us had to struggle to learn another language (unless you count American English as another language). And they all have papers.

But my great-grandparents were indentured servants who toiled hard in the fields of Fiji, thousands of miles from their own country. My parents barely finished high school. They left their entire lives behind to come here after a long history of political violence against Indians in their own country. We lived in a small mobile home park that we could barely afford. I started working at Taco Bell when I was barely 16 and they went from being accountants in their country of origin to janitors in America. I was put into some random urban high school with a dismal graduation rate and never went to my own high school graduation. I scrubbed floors and washed toilets to put myself through undergraduate and graduate school.

I don’t want to get into the stress of growing up in a mixed-immigration status family and always feeling like the outsider. Due to my immigration status and removal proceedings, the entire family feels like an axe is hanging over their head at all times and no one feels like they can move forward in their lives. I cannot imagine what it is like for my mother to have papers and not have the same right conferred to the daughter for whom she lives. Her life revolves around my immigration status. And her 30-year marriage to my Dad fell apart because of it.

Mom and Dad fought over everything, including my sexuality and immigration status. Once, cops came to my house to take my father away because a counselor at school reportedly found out that he was assaulting me because I was gay. Despite being more conservative and religious, Mom was the only one to defend me. Still, they spent years trying to force me into a marriage of convenience. I tried to kill myself on three separate occasions. I can go on, but I don’t have time to play oppression Olympics.

True privilege is when bankers get bailed out after crashing the economy and rendering thousands homeless. True privilege is when a British company pours thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and gets away with it. True privilege is straight, white male privilege. True privilege is birthright citizenship.

Still, I will admit two privileges:

  1. I was born and raised in the Fiji Islands and then the San Francisco Bay Area.
  2. My mother spent her lifetime savings on me and works 18 hours a day to make sure that she can afford to put me through law school.

Everything else is either luck or hard work. But it isn’t privilege.

People also complain that I sound entitled. When you, your siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles work hard and pay taxes and you still get told to appear all the way across the country to stand trial for the actions of someone else contrary to what the law says (Read Section 203(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), you better feel a wee bit angry. When the law is written in your favor but an agency is entitled to an arbitrary and capricious deference that it uses to persecute and separate you from your family, and deny you legal rights, there is little else to feel besides anger.

This “privileged dreamer” just paid $800 in taxes to the state of California. And I have to appear in an Immigration Court in California for removal proceedings. That’s anything but privilege.

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22 Senators Call On Obama to Stop the Deportation of Immigrant Youth

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

It’s nice to finally see some sort of response to the continued detention and deportation of immigrant youth. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (IL), along with 20 other Senators, signed on to a powerful letter sent to the Obama Administration today, imploring him to use his executive powers to stop the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible students.

Both my California senators, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer, signed on to the letter.

You can view the letter below, courtesy America’s Voice:


Senator Gillibrand (NY) posted this as a press release on her site this afternoon and now it has mysteriously disappeared. I hope it was not taken down due to another gag order from the Obama Administration.

Mr. President: Why Are You Deporting My Grand-Daughter?

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Please contact Adam Luna for press interviews regarding my immigration case and CC Jackie Mahendra, jackie@change.org

In some great news, President Barack Obama is coming to speak to my school tomorrow about fiscal policy and deficit plan. At the same time, his administration is set to spend somewhere between $12,500 to $20,000 in trying to remove me from the country. That really is cheap change for the United States but it makes for some fantastic deficit planning if you account for the lost productivity and taxes over a lifetime and multiply that to include every non-criminal that is now in removal proceedings.

Mr. President, in case I don’t get tickets to come see you at the event, I have one question. It’s actually from my grandmother. She’s 82 years old. She’s a citizen of the United States. She voted for you in the last elections and she’s looking forward to voting for you again if you can answer just one question: Why are you trying to deport her grand-daughter?

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