When leaving and returning to the US, one of the things that travelers are most wary about are any immigration problems which may interrupt their travels. The news is filled with stories of people being detained by border authorities unfairly. While in many cases border authorities are simply trying to keep those in the US safe, unfair immigration delays are certainly a serious concern. They are also something that Elizabeth Olivas recently got first-hand knowledge of.
Olivas, a Frankfort High School senior and an honors student, recently returned to her native Mexico but was barred from the US when she attempted to re-enter the country. Olivas has lived in the US since she was four years old, but resolving the immigration problem had her stuck in Mexico for six weeks until she was allowed to return to the US.
Olivas was able to return to the US through the Indianapolis International Airport, in time for her high school graduation. She arrived ready to present her commencement speech, which her school was willing to have her deliver from Mexico, if need be. However, Olivas did miss classes, track meets, and her senior prom because she was detained in Mexico. The principal at Frankfort High School praised Olivas’ work ethic and community involvement and many students at the school rallied around Olivas as she fought for her visa.
The teenager was stuck in Mexico over what some are calling an immigration technicality. Under current laws, Olivas was supposed to return to her home country to apply for a visa up to six months before turning 18. Olivas did return to Mexico, but one day after the required number of months. As a result, she was not allowed to re-enter the US and immigration authorities could have demanded that she remain in Mexico for three years before re-applying for a visa. Media attention and support from family and friends helped Olivas deal with the immigration issue and may have helped place pressure on authorities to allow the teen her visa.
Olivas’ attorney, Sarah Moshe, has stated that Olivas has been seeking her visa for eleven years. Moshe contacted Olivas to tell her to get on a plane to head to Mexico to arrange for the visa. However, they were unable to get an appointment at the consulate for the visa any earlier, which meant that Olivas was one day late in applying for the visa. In fact, in order to even get the consular appointment Moshe had to get assistance from Indiana Senator Richard Lugar and had to send many letters on Olivas’ behalf. Moshe has stated that if these obstacles were not in the way, Olivas would have been able to apply for her visa in time.