COMPTON, Calif. — The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly referred to as DACA, gives limited protections to hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the U.S. as children.
DACA recipients must continually meet several stringent requirements or risk deportation. It makes seeing family outside the country for any reason very difficult, but it is possible.
One success story is Mayra Garibo who visited Mexico this year. It was her first time back since crossing the border with her mom and younger brother as a child. It’s been more than 20 years since Garibo felt the waters in Sinaloa, Mexico where she was born.
“I waited so long for this,” said Garibo.
As a DACA recipient she couldn’t leave the country without special permission called advance parole. Her application was turned down several times despite her father’s sudden passing. She was unable to attend his funeral in Mexico. Garibo worried her grandparents in Mexico might also pass soon and she wouldn’t be able to say goodbye in person.
“It was such a long fight that I had given it my all. I had given it my all and said that’s enough, that’s enough of being hurt by this system unfortunately that isn’t really considering the human side of things and even when I said that I still called USCIS,” said Garibo.
She’s referring to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Long before coming to the airport Garibo had to become intimately familiar with this department of Homeland Security.
While her father’s bible is the most meaningful thing she brought back, visiting his grave gave her something else.
“I finally had closure after so long, so many years of fighting,” said Garibo.
Garibo is already planning her return to Mexico. She’s one of many advance parole applicants awaiting a decision. Armando Vazquez-Ramos is the president of the California-Mexico Studies Center who’s advocating for them. He’s led DACA recipients on study abroad trips to Mexico for years. His last successful trip though was in 2017. He assumed the paperwork would clear quickly under a new president.
“I mean we’re like a sore thumb. We know we are in the radar, but our concern is what’s holding it up. Is there resistance now under the leadership of this new government and why?” said Vazquez-Ramos.
Legally re-entering the country could help Garibo adjust her status, but it didn’t make leaving any easier.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever come back,” said Garibo.
Vazquez-Ramos says the center is considering legal action. The average wait time for processing advance parole forms according to USCIS is four months and several applicants have been waiting longer than that.