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DACA recipients worry about a future Trump presidency, and some are securing a “legal entry” now

Luz Galaviz stares out the window of a shuttle in Mexico City on May 28, 2024. This is her first time returning to the country since she first left at five years old.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Luz Galaviz stares out the window of a shuttle in Mexico City on May 28, 2024. This is her first time returning to the country since she first left at five years old.

In the Salt Lake City International Airport on May 28, Luz Galaviz waits to board her plane to Mexico City.

“It is your home, but at the same time, it’s a foreign country to you,” Galaviz said.

Galaviz is an elementary school teacher in Rifle, and she hasn’t been to Mexico, the country where she was born, since she first left 25 years ago. She was five years old.

“I'm visualizing the landing there and just looking at the buildings, the architecture, the people,” Galaviz said. “I really want to just dive into the culture.”

Luz is one of roughly 579,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are temporarily protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

DACA doesn’t offer a pathway to citizenship, but recipients can stay and work in the U.S. for up to two years before having to renew their paperwork.

“I've seen lawyers in the past, just to kind of see where I'm at in the process,” Galaviz said. “It's such a tricky situation. … It could be another work visa of another type, so we're figuring it out.”

But to qualify for a green card or a visa, which offers more protections than DACA, many have to travel internationally and return to the U.S. to obtain legal entry if they weren’t inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection the first time.

However, DACA recipients aren’t allowed to go abroad unless they apply for a reentry permit called “advance parole.”

Galaviz applied and received permission to attend a leadership conference in Mexico with local nonprofit Voces Unidas, which allows her to fly to Mexico City and continue seeking a secure status in the U.S. when she returns.

It’s a step in the right direction for many, but come November, it may be off the table, according to Julia Gelatt, the associate director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute.

In an interview with Aspen Public Radio, Gelatt said, “I think if Trump is reelected, he will try to end the DACA program again.”

In 2017, former President Donald Trump tried to repeal DACA by rescinding the memos that first established the program. The Supreme Court of the United States ultimately ruled the move unconstitutional in June 2020. Advance parole applications were not granted again until December 2020.

Since then, new applicants have not been allowed to sign up for DACA, but those already in the program can continue to renew their benefits biannually.

Gelatt said Trump could be more successful in his second attempt at repealing DACA, since he’s likely learned from his previous mistakes.

“Part of the reason that his move to end DACA was blocked by the courts was that he did it through fast procedures rather than going through a full regulatory process,” Gelatt said. “I anticipate that a future Trump administration might try to end the program in a more durable way.”

Gelatt said many DACA holders will probably try to rush their advance parole applications in the next few months in case Trump takes office again.

But even with advance parole, the permit does not guarantee that DACA recipients will be allowed back into the U.S. since the document is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, not CBP, which decides who is admissible at U.S. borders.

“So I could imagine that it would be quite scary for somebody to travel abroad on advance parole with DACA in the early days of the Trump administration, not knowing what changes were about to come.”

People traveling with advance parole permits even now go through a lot of anxiety since their return is not guaranteed.

Galaviz went through a wide range of emotions during her trip.

“Seeing the people … it made me think about all the reasons why people leave, why my parents left,” Galaviz said.

She got back to the U.S. safely last month.

Galaviz laughs easily, but when she looks ahead and talks about the upcoming election, she becomes very somber.

“I'm petrified,” Galaviz said. “I'm very scared about what's going to happen.”

Undocumented immigrants often live with a certain level of fear, feeling vulnerable to sudden changes in immigration policy, but Galaviz is accustomed to waiting for election results and living her life in the meantime.

Copyright 2024 Aspen Public Radio

Halle Zander
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