- A DACA recipient is stranded in Mexico after traveling to Juarez for an immigration interview in August.
- Jaime Avalos is trying to return home to his wife and son, but has been banned from the United States for ten years.
- Avalos and his wife spoke to Insider about their fight to reunite their family.
Jaime Avalos had a bad feeling about his impending trip to Mexico. In the weeks leading up to immigration in Juarez, he was haunted by the prospect of irreversible consequences.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Avalos told the insider, explaining the unshakable feeling in his gut.
Nevertheless, Avalos, along with his American wife, visited the U.S. Consulate in Juarez in August 2022 for an interview. This was a necessary step for him to begin the process of trying to secure U.S. residency, and ultimately wanted citizenship.
The 28-year-old Avalos was born in Mexico, but has spent most of his life in Texas after his mother brought him to the United States when he was just one year old. An August interview marked the beginning of his effort to become a citizen of the only country he called his home. For ten years, it was protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, often referred to as DACA. Not documented.
However, the meeting quickly turned into a nightmare when Avalos learned that his mother had temporarily taken him back to Mexico when he was seven years old. we. The discovery that he had re-entered the country illegally not only dashed his immediate dreams of becoming a resident, but forced him to be banned from returning to the United States for ten years.
Now stranded in a foreign country far from home, wife, children and life, Avalos continues to be haunted by the vagaries of the overwhelming and often callous US immigration system.
Uneasy Pursuit of Citizenship
Growing up in Houston as an illegal immigrant, Avalos always watched over his shoulder, he told Insider.
Those fears vanished when he secured a position with DACA at the age of 18.
Avalos graduated from high school. he got a job He diligently renewed his DACA status before the deadline every two years, and in 2019 his adolescent sweetheart Yarianna married Martinez. The couple purchased their first home in the same year.
Avalos and Martinez said they began to talk more seriously about seeking citizenship for Avalos as the political climate became increasingly hostile to immigrants.
Several Republican-led states this week Asked Judge to End Protection for DACA Recipients, known as the “Dreamer”. Former President Donald Trump scrapped the program in his 2017, but three years later the Supreme Court blocked his decision.
“DACA has never been protected,” Martinez, 22, told Insider. “It’s always threatened with cancellation.”
The couple had big plans for the future and wanted to eradicate the risks to their dream life. I applied. Amid the global pandemic and growing crisis at the border, the couple did not expect to hear about Avalos’ application anytime soon.
It took more than two years, but in the summer of 2022, Avalos received word that immigration in Juarez was scheduled for August.
By then, the stakes had risen significantly.
“We had just had a baby,” Martinez said. In December 2021, the couple’s child, Noah, was born.
Avalos was uneasy. If for some reason he didn’t get a visa during the meeting, life as he knew it would be changed forever. But with a lawyer’s assurance that his paperwork was in order, Avalos quieted the nagging voices in his head and embarked on a one-way, doomed cross-border journey.
“He learned a lot of truth in that interview,” Martinez said.
disaster across the border
Before the interview in August, Avalos said he had the impression that he had never left the United States since he arrived there with his mother in 1996.
According to Martinez, who spoke of the fateful encounter in an interview with an insider, immigration officers immediately focused on Avalos’ Mexican birth certificate, which included amendments from 2002 — he and his Six years after his mother first entered the United States.
In Mexico, changing official government documents such as birth certificates requires the person to be physically present, she said. The registration date on Avalos’ birth certificate indicated that he and his mother temporarily returned to Mexico in 2002. This meant that mother and son were forced to enter the country illegally for the second time, six years after his first illegal crossing.
With no response to the policeman’s detailed questions, Avalos called his mother in the middle of the interview, hoping she could explain the discrepancy. She said she brought her back to Mexico at the time of , so she could be legally adopted by her husband (a man Avalos always believed was his biological father). he.
“It had a huge impact on me,” Avalos said of the revelation about his parentage.
Left to process this new information about his father, Avalos soon suffered another crushing blow. He was not allowed to return to the United States. he couldn’t go home.
After he and his mother entered the United States illegally and then temporarily crossed the border, Avalos’ residency application was promptly denied and he was barred from re-entering his native United States for 10 years. it was done. where his wife and son remained.
“My world was coming to an end,” he said. “I should have trusted my intuition and never left.”
ICE declined to comment on the specific case of Avalos, but told Insider that DACA recipients who left the U.S. without first obtaining advance parole documents had their period of deferred action suspended. Given that, he said there was a “significant risk” of not being able to re-enter the United States. once they leave the country.
Martinez said she thought her husband was joking when he came out of the interview in blank disbelief. Even as he explained what happened, she said, Martinez had trouble understanding the enormous consequences of the meeting.
It became a reality when she boarded the plane back to Houston alone.
An ongoing battle to bring Avalos home
Avalos and Martinez wanted their separation from each other to be short. Reality is beyond discouragement, they said.
“The first month was terrible, really bad,” Avalos said. “I was in my head. I have a house payment, a car payment, a phone payment. I’m not going to see my kids or my wife until next year.”
While continuing to work part-time as a medical assistant, Martinez took action in search of a solution to get her husband home.
She pitched Avalos’ story to several new immigration attorneys in the Houston area, but the attorneys were hesitant to take on difficult cases until she met them. Naime Salemimmediately went to work raising public awareness and anger about Avaloth’s exile.
Salem secured strong support in the form of the couple’s Congressman, Rep. Al Green of Texas. Laws introduced Last year, the immigration and nationality law was amended, filed a private bill In November he requested residency in Avalos and framed the crusade as a “mission of mercy”.
In a statement to insiders, Green said of Avalos, “He is not being held by a hostile country. We are the ones who are preventing him from returning.”
Lawmakers said they also sent letters to President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas about the Avalos case.
The young family’s best chance of being reunited is the pending humanitarian parole request Salem filed on behalf of Avalos three months ago, she said. Parole status allows individuals who are ineligible to enter the United States to enter for humanitarian reasons.
According to ICE, DACA recipients who, like Avalos, left the U.S. without first obtaining prior parole, but were later paroled and returned to the country, are eligible to reinstate their DACA status after their parole expires. be.
Salem said the government does not consider Avalos’ request for humanitarian parole to be an urgent or urgent case, so he may have to wait seven to 10 months to receive a final decision on his application.
These possible solutions gave the family a glimmer of hope amidst their heartbreak, they said. Salem said it would be stuck indefinitely.
“This is his only option,” Martinez said. “Then there are no options, no Plan B.”
family torn apart
Both husband and wife are trying to stay positive, they said, just for each other and their son.
“I went from being married to seeing my husband every day when I woke up to feeling like a single mother,” Martinez said.
The couple often video chat and communicate via text messages and phone calls, Martinez said. While Juarez is nearly 800 miles from his family in Houston, Juarez is 10 miles from the U.S. border. and Avalos’ US phone number still works.
“Noah was only eight months old when this happened. Now he’s 13 months old,” Martinez said of his son. And why am I watching my dad on FaceTime?”
Meanwhile, Avalos is still trying to adjust to life in a foreign country. Although he lives with his uncle in Juarez, he has trouble learning the Spanish slang spoken in the city and is still new to driving in Mexico. He said he finally secured his job in the country last month after going through an extensive recruitment process, working for a computer chip company.
He sometimes talks to his mother on the phone, though not about a revelation he learned in an immigration interview.
“I haven’t touched on that,” he told Insider. “Once everything is settled, let’s talk about it.”
Martinez and Noah have been able to visit Juárez’s Avalos several times over the past four and a half months, including once with Greene. Flight costs and time off from work Make frequent travel impossible.
As life continues around them, there is little the family can do right now and have to wait.
“He’s trying to keep his head really, really high,” Martinez said of her husband. “But it’s starting to get heavy.”