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Destination Unknown

Whatever your opinion on illegal immigration, it's hard not feel sympathy for Amadou Ly, a Harlem high-schooler who’s facing deportation. The 18-year-old Senegal native's situation didn't become public until earlier this week, as he and 18 other members of the robot-building team from Central Park East High School prepared to fly to Atlanta for a national competition. Because he doesn't have an airplane-friendly ID, Ly had to divulge his status to school officials, who then scrambled to get him a seat on a train. Ly was brought by his mother to the United States in 2001, at age 13, then left here to finish his schooling with help from family friends. But he's mostly been on his own, shuffling between New York and Indianapolis before finally enrolling, last year, at Central Park East. One teacher says he has "mathematical ability and a scientific mind," and he and his robot-building teammates surprised many by edging out elite high school teams in a regional competition. But since 2004, when Ly was a passenger in a car rear-ended by a truck, he's been the subject of federal deportation proceedings. His only hope, as he competes in Atlanta this week, lies with an amendment to U.S. Senate immigration bills now under consideration. Called the Dream Act, it allows for upstanding youngsters who have lived in the country for five years and been accepted to college to pursue citizenship. Ly, who's been accepted but doesn't qualify for financial aid, is, according to one robot-team mentor, "a great kid, a very talented kid."

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