Right after I heard the Obama Administration’s deferred action guidelines, I went to the FAQ section on the USCIS website and searched for the word “travel.”
As happy as I am about the fact that I will now be able to work and contribute to this country, I was most looking forward to learning about any guidelines referring to travel.
Rumor had it that we would know more about traveling under the condition of “advance parole.” However, I quickly learned that the reality was much more complicated. With some research, I’ve decided that it is just too risky for me, though everyone will need to make their own decision.
Not being able to travel to my home country – Peru – has been one of the most difficult parts (if not the most difficult part) of being undocumented. When I wasn’t able to go back for my grandmother’s funeral, I learned what it felt like to be confined to a country, even though it is my second home. Many of my DREAMer friends share this same sentiment of not being able to travel home for reasons beyond our control. When I heard the news of finally being able to travel (under advance parole), I was ecstatic.
From the USCIS website:
“If USCIS has decided to defer action in your case and you want to travel outside the United States, you must apply for advance parole by filing a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and paying the applicable fee ($360). USCIS will determine whether your purpose for international travel is justifiable based on the circumstances you describe in your request. Generally, USCIS will only grant advance parole if you are traveling for humanitarian purposes, educational purposes, or employment purposes.”
Facebook statuses among my undocumented friends quickly sprung up: “Study abroad,” “DREAM Summer abroad,” “Excited for work permits and traveling,” “I am going to Peru,” wrote some.
Yet that excitement wore off as I slowly began to read the fine print and consulted with those who understood the legal language.
My big questions were:
- If I leave the country, will I trigger the ten year bar and not be allowed back in?
- Will leaving the country make it difficult to adjust my status in the future?
- How weak is advance parole in terms of allowing me to come back to the country?
I looked at the instructions for filling out Form 1-131 and saw the warnings.
“Although advance parole may allow you to return to the United States, your departure may trigger the 3 or 10-year bar, if you accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence before the date you were considered to be in a period of authorized stay.”
Crystal Williams, the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, warned at United We DREAM’s national “We Own the DREAM” press conference that leaving the country might affect DREAMers in the future when they try to adjust their status, through marriage for example.
Advance parole, if granted, basically gives DREAMers the ability to “ask” to come back to the U.S.; it does not guarantee that it will let us back in.
It is risky to travel and more than that, it may trigger the 10-year bar.
When I heard the news that I would be able to travel, I had to step out of the office because I was so overwhelmed. “Finally,” I thought, “something has changed.” Unfortunately, that part hasn’t — but I did realized that as cynical and skeptical as I am sometimes about the DREAM Act passing, the truth is that I am secretly hopeful. I realized that I am invested and the years I have waited have not completely numbed me to the possibility of success in the movement.