DACA flight attendant: Small misunderstanding causes big problems
IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2019 - 12:00am

Recently, there were news reports from many media outlets about a Texas flight attendant enrolled in DACA who was told by a supervisor that it was safe for her to fly to Mexico and safely return to the US. Unfortunately, upon her return, she was detained by immigration officers and held in detention for over five weeks before being released and then put in deportation proceedings. Now, she faces a host of problems for what was described as a small misunderstanding.

According to the news stories, this flight attendant entered the US illegally over 25 years ago, when she was three years old. Eventually, she enrolled in the DACA program, which defers deportation proceedings against certain young people who entered the US at an early age and allows them to obtain work authorization.

She eventually married a US citizen, got a job at an airline, and was assigned to international flights. She expressed concerns about traveling outside the US, but the airline assured her she would be fine, and it was safe for her to travel. However, upon her return from a trip to Mexico, she was detained and put in removal proceedings.

Here are some of my observations about this case and potential issues/problems she will be facing:

1. DACA recipients cannot leave the US. (They used to be able to obtain “advance parole,” which is permission to travel outside the US and then return. However, the Trump administration stopped granting advance parole.)

2. By departing the US, her DACA protection was “automatically terminated.”

3. She also triggered Bill Clinton’s 10-year bar. (Bill Clinton signed a law in 1996 where, if anyone had been out of status for more than one year and departed the US, they are banned from coming back for 10 years. Therefore, she is subject to that 10-year bar.

4. If she had entered the US without inspection (EWI), and was not “grandfathered” under section 245(i), she would not be able to get a green card in the US, even if she is petitioned by her US citizen husband (unless he has been in the military or on active duty). She would instead have to return to her home country, either on the basis of a provisional waiver, or if she triggered the 10-year bar, apply for the waiver in her home country.

5. It appears in the articles she has already been placed in removal proceedings (after having been held in detention for five weeks), and could face the possibility of being deported/removed.

6. The husband should already think about petitioning her and filing for a waiver of the 10-year bar, so she can return to her home country and obtain a visa.

This goes to show the importance of consulting with, and obtaining advice and guidance from an attorney, rather than relying on friends, relatives, or even employers, who may not know the law, and give the wrong advice. In this case, she was told that she would have no problems in traveling outside the US because she was a DACA recipient. That advice was wrong and now has created big problems for her.

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