Federal immigration officials are releasing San Francisco college student Steve Li, who was jailed for more than two months as officials sought to deport him to Peru.

Li, 20, will take an overnight Greyhound bus back to San Francisco after he is released from an Arizona detention center Friday, said his lawyer, Sin Yen Ling.

He will remain under supervision and must regularly report to immigration officers once he is back in the city, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

News of his release came hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private relief bill in Congress on behalf of Li. The bill, if enacted, would grant Li a green card allowing him to permanently reside in the United States. Congress rarely passes such bills, but the mere introduction of the private bill effectively halted Li's deportation.

"Its amazing. It's extremely rare for a private bill to be introduced," Ling said. "It's clear she thought this was an important case."

Immigration officers agreed to delay the deportation once Feinstein announced she was introducing the private bill. The stay remains in effect for 75 days after the current Congress ends in January.

Ling said an outpouring of public support caused Feinstein to introduce a rare private bill. Supporters sent between 3,000 and 5,000 letters and e-mail messages to lawmakers in recent weeks, Ling said.

The City College of San Francisco student was arrested at his home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Sept. 15. He was moved from a California jail to a Florence, Ariz., immigrant detention center in early October, and has waited there since.


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Feinstein said in a statement that it would be unjust to deport Li before Congress considers the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally at a young age who graduate high school and enroll in college or military service. House and Senate leaders have said they would put the bill up for a vote as a stand-alone measure after Thanksgiving.

Li's case was complicated by the fact that he was born in Peru, where his Chinese-born parents had moved in the 1980s. He faced deportation to Peru, where he has no remaining kin, while his parents face deportation to China. The family moved to the United States when he was 12 on tourist visas. They applied for political asylum from China but were denied, and a judge ordered them to leave. Li has said he grew up unaware of the legal problems his family faced.

In her statement explaining her private bill, Feinstein cited Li's desire to be a nurse, his good grades in school and his community service work in San Francisco as reasons he should stay.

Read the full text of Feinstein's statement at the Political Blotter, www.ibabuzz.com/politics.