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Altered Plans: Young Immigrants Put Travel and Study Abroad Plans on Hold

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

“Just come back before January 20, 2017” is the advice advocates are giving to hundreds of DACA recipients traveling outside the U.S. thanks to a process called Advance Parole.

The uncertainty of the new administration is hitting young immigrants hard since one of President-elect Trump’s campaign promises was to dismantle President Obama’s executive action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Since then, Trump has sent mixed signals about the extent of his threats.

DACA is an immigration policy which grants temporary immigration relief to young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The policy, brought forth by President Obama through an executive action in 2012, grants a renewable two-year work permit and reprieve from deportation to some undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007, among other requirements.

Many are scared to lose DACA and become in danger of deportation. The stakes are high since the Deferred Action implementation allows them to legally work, go to school, drive with licenses, acquire homes, buy vehicles, start businesses and travel internationally under restricted circumstances.

DACA recipients can travel internationally under a system known as Advance Parole, an application submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows them to travel outside the country and return lawfully.

For DACA recipients, traveling even with Advance Parole documentation is not completely risk-free, as we reported before. Yet many have taken the risk in exchange for the opportunity to visit ailing grandparents, attend funerals, and reconnect with their former communities.

Others are taking the opportunity to travel abroad for educational and job-related opportunities.

But after the election, the fear has increased.

The new administration cannot summarily dispense with these rules and regulations from one day to the next. Delia Salvatierra.

Several universities and colleges have developed study abroad programs in Latin-American countries which include undocumented students protected by DACA and Advance Parole in their rosters. Some of these programs have year-long schedules and are recognizing the uncertain future for DREAMers. Just recently, California State University-Chico’s officials sent an email to all 182 students who are abroad this semester, advising the undocumented students to return before January 20, 2017.

If the incoming Trump administration scraps the DACA program, Advance Parole will no longer exist, according to Lynette Parker, an immigration law expert and associate clinical professor of law at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

According to the Center, young immigrants abroad visiting ill relatives or in study programs with Advance Parole should not leave or be outside of the country after Jan. 20.

Students are also being told not to apply for Advance Parole unless it is a trip with a return date before Jan. 20. If the trip is scheduled for a later date and DACA is repealed, they will lose their application fee.

Phoenix metro area attorney Delia Salvatierra, from Salvatierra Law Group, stated that there is a rush to travel now before Jan. 20, 2017. However, her analysis is a bit different: “The rules of Advance Parole exist independent of DACA. If USCIS grants Advance Parole, it is a permission from the Government to allow that person to reenter. The new administration cannot summarily dispense with these rules and regulations from one day to the next.”

“Importantly”, Ms. Salvatierra said, “there has to be notice that a rule/regulations is being canceled or will not be honored. Although I do think that it is safer to travel on advance parole before Jan. 20, 2017, I think it is more important to file for DACA and Advance Parole prior to January 20, 2017. Once you have the benefit, then DACA recipients can decide whether to travel or not”.