Photo: Elizabeth Olivas Back in U.S. for Graduation After Being Stuck in Immigration Web in Mexico
Elizabeth Olivas was looking forward to graduated high school and going on to college and until Friday morning see saw the experience slipping away.
When she was just 4 years old, Elizabeth was brought to the U.S. (Indiana) from Chihuahua, Mexico. Since arriving, she performed well in school, was a start athlete as part of Frankfort High School’s soccer and track teams, and was even the winter homecoming queen. With a 3.96 grade-point average, Elizabeth was planning for life after graduation, she just had one thing to do.
By law, Elizabeth was required to travel back to Mexico within 6 months (180 days) of her 18th birthday and apply for a visa or green card. Seven weeks ago, Elizabeth and her father, a naturalized U.S. citizen, traveled back to Mexico.
However, when they arrived on April 17, the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez informed her she was too late, she had arrived on day 181. Under the law, she would have to spend three years in Mexico unless she received a waiver, something that can take months to obtain.
Elizabeth called her Indianapolis lawyer, Sarah Moshe, asking how this could have happened. Moshe said they waited as long as possible to take her to Mexico to ensure she would miss as little school as possible. Moshe said her firm uses a legal-calendar company to keep track of key dates. However, the company did not take into account that this is a leap year, with an extra day in February, making Elizabeth’s trip to Mexico one day too late.
With graduation just around the corner, Elizabeth and her family began their pleas for her return in time for graduation. The visa she was seeking would grant her permanent residency, but would not give her the right to vote.
As days passed and graduation grew closer, Elizabeth waited in Juarez, hoping for help.
Thursday, that help would arrive.
After Indiana lawmakers received word of Elizabeth’s predicament, they helped grant an expedited waiver.
After a seven-hour meeting in Juarez, Elizabeth left the consulate with proper travel documents and within hours was on a flight back to Indiana.
Though she missed a seniors award ceremony and prom, Elizabeth has made it back to the Indiana just in time for her graduation.
This weekend, Elizabeth was greet her graduating class as she gives the salutatorian address, a speech she had continued to prepare while still in Juarez.