But late last week, U.S. immigration officials gave the family some mixed news: The teen can stay, but her parents have to go.
Marvin and Marina Gonzalez, and daughter Marie, moved to the U.S. from Costa Rica on six-month visas in 1991 and stayed, believing that, if they were good citizens, they'd become real citizens in seven years. But that was incorrect and, when it was discovered that the family was living here illegally, they were told they'd have to leave.
Supporters in Missouri rallied to have the decision reversed, and last week on The Early Show, Marie made a plea of her own, saying, "Please don't take me away from this country. This is the only country I've known. This is my home. Don't make me say good-bye to my friends."
A few hours later, immigration officials had their good news/bad news scenario for Marie. She could stay another year, but Mom and Dad have to leave Tuesday.
"The fact that I'm getting torn away from my parents, it's so difficult. While I'm getting the opportunity to just live my dream, they won't be by my side while I'm doing it," Marie says.
She graduated from high school with honors, but with her citizenship in doubt, college was not an option. And even with the extension, she's still in limbo: "I don't know if I'm going to get to go to school. I'm hoping that this is why I've been given this opportunity, but I don't know."
She also doesn't know where she'll be living.
The Gonzalez family
Marie says, "I can't even believe that the day is today. It's just so unreal. And it hasn't even hit me, to be honest. And it's going to be really hard. I'm hoping that we still have an opportunity to change this. …I'm hoping that someone out there watching this can do something."
Her mom, Marina added that leaving Marie alone in the U.S. would be extraordinarily difficult: "I feel worried. I'm her mother. Only a mother can understand the way I feel right now. It's so terrible to think that the family like we have is going to be separated. …My heart is broken."
To read the rest of the Gonzelez' story,.