The sole survivor of a family killed in a horrific, mile-long pileup on Florida's I-75 will not be deported, federal immigration officials said.
15-year-old Lidiane Carmo learned Tuesday in a Gainesville hospital that her pastor father, mother, 17-year-old sister and uncle were dead, reports WSBTV. The family came to the United States from Brazil 12 years ago, according to relatives, then stayed illegally when their visas expired.
"The Carmo family was in the United States illegally," Alonso Oliveira, a fellow pastor and family friend told CNN. "The family wanted to obtain legal status but had no laws to help them do so."
The Carmo family was on their way back to their home in Georgia from attending a religious conference in Orlando when smoke and smog from a brush fire apparently contributed to a massive wreck that claimed 11 lives and injured 18 people.
Relatives who wanted to keep the ninth-grader in the United States feared she would be sent back to Brazil when her undocumented status was revealed, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said in a statement the agency's "stated priorities include convicted criminals, immigration fugitives, repeat immigration law violators and recent border crossers."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Miss Lidiane Carmo as she deals with the tragic loss of her family," Gonzalez said, according to CNN. "Reports of her facing deportation are completely false."
UPDATE: HOW YOU CAN HELP: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the Carmo Family Funeral Fund has been established at Bank of America by the small Brazilian church Lidiane Carmo's father co-founded in Marietta. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch.
Additionally, the Florida Foundation is accepting donations toward the "long-term recovery funding for the needs of [I-75 crash] victims, survivors, and families not met by insurance or other funding." Text FLFUND to 20222 to give $10.
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