Some UT DACA students are still plan­ning to study abroad,

Four un­doc­u­mented mi­grants go­ing de­spite Trump un­cer­tainty.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Brianna Stone bstone@states­man.com

De­spite an un­cer­tain fate for thou­sands of De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals ben­e­fi­cia­ries and rec­om­men­da­tions to re­frain from over­seas travel, some Univer­sity of Texas students are not let­ting their un­doc­u­mented sta­tus get in the way of study­ing abroad.

UT ju­nior Ya­haira Pamela, a DACA re­cip­i­ent who re­cently re­turned from a study abroad pro­gram in Mex­ico City, is plan­ning to go on an­other trip this sum­mer — even though her en­try back into the United States is not guar­an­teed.

Pamela, 20, said her fam­ily comes from Tlal­nepantla de Baz, Mex­ico, a town north of Mex­ico City, and en­tered the United States on a travel visa when she was 2 years old. She said her par­ents never talked about im­mi­gra­tion or doc­u­men­ta­tion and she didn’t be­gin to un­der­stand her sit­u­a­tion un­til high school.

Un­der the DACA pol­icy en­acted by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2012, cer­tain un­doc­u­mented youths who en­tered the coun­try as mi­nors can re­ceive a re­new­able two-year pe­riod of de­ferred

ac­tion from de­por­ta­tion.

More than 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants live in the United States, and of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that more than 16,000 of those peo­ple are students at Texas col­leges. Few of th­ese students choose to study abroad be­cause of the risk of los­ing their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and be­ing stuck in a for­eign coun­try with­out any re­sources.

“Me leav­ing the coun­try to Mex­ico was a risk, and I un­der­stand that this up­com­ing trip is also a risk,” Pamela said. “As an un­doc­u­mented in­di­vid­ual, I al­ways have to think about a plan B, C, D.”

Along with a few other un­doc­u­mented students, Pamela, a so­cial work ma­jor, em­barked on a nine-day trip to Mex­ico City in Jan­uary for a pro­gram spon­sored by the Jaime Lucero Mex­i­can Stud­ies In­sti­tute at the City Univer­sity of New York and El Cole­gio de Méx­ico. This was the first time she had been to Mex­ico in more than 18 years and her first time ever leav­ing the United States. The ed­u­ca­tional trip in­cluded a re­union with rel­a­tives who lived near Mex­ico City.

“I was able to meet fam­ily mem­bers who knew me as a lit­tle girl but who I didn’t re­mem­ber,” Pamela said. “I was able to re-ex­pe­ri­ence Mex­ico ... or just ex­pe­ri­ence Mex­ico.”

Trip or­ga­niz­ers ar­ranged for the students to re­turn be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Don­ald Trump, who had taken a hard-line stance against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“CUNY didn’t want us to be in Mex­ico af­ter Jan. 20 be­cause we didn’t know what would hap­pen with DACA,” Pamela said. “I ap­plied for ad­vance pa­role to get per­mis­sion to leave the coun­try but still ran the risk of im­mi­gra­tion not let­ting me back in when I re­turned.”

Ap­ply­ing and get­ting ac­cepted for ad­vance pa­role re­quires a non­re­fund­able $575 fil­ing fee and can take up to 90 days. Ad­vance paroles are al­lowed for ed­u­ca­tional, hu­man­i­tar­ian or em­ploy­ment pur­poses.

“For my last trip, I had to con­tact my con­gress­man, Lloyd Doggett, to get my pa­role ex­pe­dited,” Pamela said. “I ap­plied for ad­vance pa­role in De­cem­ber, and my trip was set for Jan­uary.”

She said im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties had told un­doc­u­mented in­di­vid­u­als that ed­u­ca­tional trips would not be ex­pe­dited, but with the help of Doggett, an Austin Demo­crat, Pamela got all of her pa­per­work in or­der be­fore the trip.

When Pamela re­turned, she said, her doc­u­ments and ad­vanced pa­role were checked by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties, and she was asked a few gen­eral ques­tions, but she didn’t have any trou­ble re-en­ter­ing the coun­try. The only hang-up: She missed a con­nect­ing flight while wait­ing to be screened.

Pamela plans to re­turn to Mex­ico in May for a sixweek study abroad pro­gram through UT. She said that for her Jan­uary trip, she did not con­sult with a lawyer be­fore leav­ing, but this time she will out of cau­tion. Ac­cord­ing to UT, Pamela is not the only un­doc­u­mented stu­dent trav­el­ing over­seas this year.

More than 3,000 UT students study abroad ev­ery year in one of the 80 coun­tries in which the univer­sity has built pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to its in­ter­na­tional of­fice. Eleven un­doc­u­mented students have stud­ied abroad since 2014, and this year, four un­doc­u­mented students, in­clud­ing Pamela, plan to study abroad dur­ing the sum­mer and one dur­ing the fall se­mes­ter.

UT’s in­ter­na­tional of­fice rec­om­mends that DACA students who want to study abroad seek le­gal ad­vice.

“If leg­is­la­tion changes while abroad, one’s le­gal DACA sta­tus could be re­scinded and, thus, re-en­try into the U.S. could be jeop­ar­dized,” the in­ter­na­tional of­fice says on its page of in­for­ma­tion for un­doc­u­mented students.

The of­fice said it en­cour­ages all un­doc­u­mented students to de­velop al­ter­na­tive path­ways to get sim­i­lar ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences with­out leav­ing the coun­try.

It’s un­cer­tain whether Trump will con­tinue the DACA pol­icy, but he has not taken any ac­tion yet.

The students might be safe tak­ing trips, de­pend­ing on when their two-year DACA sta­tus ex­pires. Pamela said she re­cently re­newed her DACA sta­tus and that it will ex­pire in Oc­to­ber 2018.

If Trump de­cides to im­me­di­ately can­cel DACA, the con­se­quences would be more dire.

For un­doc­u­mented students who are not DACA ben­e­fi­cia­ries, study­ing abroad would be much more dan­ger­ous, be­cause they do not have tem­po­rary le­gal pro­tec­tion as DACA students have.

Elissa Steglich, a pro­fes­sor in UT’s im­mi­gra­tion clinic at the Law School, said the gen­eral ad­vice from the im­mi­gra­tion le­gal com­mu­nity is to avoid travel un­less it’s nec­es­sary.

“It’s un­clear what could hap­pen while some­one is over­seas, and it would be more dif­fi­cult to de­fend them and make le­gal chal­lenges while they are out­side the U.S. rather than in­side the coun­try,” Steglich said.

In the past, the im­mi­gra­tion clinic has had some DACA students study abroad, she said, but things are dif­fer­ent now since Trump took of­fice.

If un­doc­u­mented students study­ing abroad are de­nied en­try back into the United States, im­mi­gra­tion lawyers say they will be sent back to the coun­try in which they stud­ied abroad, rather than to their coun­try of ori­gin. This pol­icy, called “im­mi­gra­tion rec­i­proc­ity,” sends for­eign na­tion­als back to the coun­try to which they were last ad­mit­ted if they are re­fused en­try to the United States.

In pre­par­ing for her re­turn to Mex­ico in May, Pamela said she has been mak­ing con­nec­tions with col­leagues from the univer­sity in Mex­ico City and with lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in case she can’t re­turn to the United States.

“If I have trou­ble com­ing back, there’s ei­ther go­ing to be a pause on my ed­u­ca­tion or a pause on my life,” she said.

DACA re­cip­i­ent Ya­haira Pamela is a ju­nior at UT.

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