Now, the family of four is facing deportation to Guatemala, a country and culture they know little about. Both Maria and her brother, said their English is better than their Spanish. Because of their immigration status, they have not been back to Guatemala since they were toddlers. “She’s so American,” said Elly Pettygrove, Moran’s friend and fellow Glendora High student. “She doesn’t even have an accent.” Pettygrove, 18, first reported Maria’s story in Glendora High School’s student newspaper, The Tartan Shield. Glendora High School senior Maria Moran had a bright future in mind, but her plans are looking less clear now. The 17-year-old honor student was accepted at San Francisco State University, where she planned to study food science. She dreamed of opening her own vegetarian restaurant chain. But last October, Maria and her family learned U.S. immigration authorities had denied their 14-year-old application for political asylum. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officials would not comment on the Morans’ case, but noted anyone seeking asylum must fit into at least one of five categories to qualify for asylum. Fear of returning must be based on persecution for religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group, said spokeswoman Marie Sebrechts. She said the CIS has approved a high percentage of Guatemalan applications for citizenship since the ’90s. The Morans said they think the agency turned them down because they could not prove they faced an imminent threat upon returning to Guatemala. They disagree. The Morans immigrated to the United States in 1993, after parents Julia and Pablo Sr. decided life in Guatemala had become too dangerous. They fled nearly four decades of bloody civil war between guerrilla fighters and government forces. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, including Julia’s brother-in-law, Juan Sanchez, were killed by the Guatemalan government’s military or paramilitary. Pablo Sr., 45, said he and his wife, Julia, 42, owned a pharmacy in Guatemala where they unwittingly sold goods to guerrillas. When government paramilitary began aggressively questioning the couple about their alleged political ties, they began to fear for their lives. The couple said they came to the United States with only their two children and the clothes on their backs. “They don’t know Guatemala,” Julia said of her children. “This is their country.” Since 1993, the Morans have settled into their American lives while waiting on immigration officials to decide their fate. One reason for the long delay may be a backlog in processing asylum requests under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act of 1991, for which the Moran family was not eligible. “We bought a house four years ago,” Julia Moran said. “After 14 years, it’s really not our fault that we have a life over here.” The family owns a home in Montclair. Pablo Jr. has started at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and hopes to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona for a degree in aerospace engineering. Pablo Sr., a truck driver for Bridge Terminal Transport, said the family has been paying taxes and abiding by U.S. laws and customs. If they are forced to leave, he said, they will have to sell the home he’s worked hard to buy. They said they still have fears about returning to Guatemala. Julia said her brother, Luis Ciraiz, was killed in an armed street robbery two years ago. She added that members of her family could be targeted for various crimes simply because they have obviously been in the United States for so long. Allegra Padillo, an organizer for the Los Angeles-based immigrant advocacy group Homies Unidos, said that is indeed a possibility. “People who’ve grown up in L.A. and are deported are going to be targeted because they look different without knowing it,” she said. Julia said her relatives in Guatemala have warned of such circumstances. Sebrechts said asylum is not granted based on the condition of an immigrant’s native country. “It’s a very individual type of benefit, specifically based on an individual’s circumstances,” she said. Julia said her family will look for other ways to gain permanent U.S. residency. At their first court hearing in Los Angeles Monday, they were given until June to find an attorney. The Morans are trying to be optimistic, but they said they are feeling the stress of the situation. “We need a good lawyer,” Julia said. “We are just asking for the opportunity to reach our dreams.” Pablo Jr., 18, firstname.lastname@example.org (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2393 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!