By ILIANA G. PEREZ
(Interviewed by Carolina Valdivia)
Iliana was born in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 with her parents and brother on Tourist Visas (which expired a few years after). She grew up in Turlock, CA. Iliana and her brother navigated the educational system being undocumented until the signing of DACA in 2012. She attended Turlock High School and graduated from CSU-Fresno in 2009 with a degree in Mathematics. She is currently a 4th year doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University pursuing a M.A. in Economics and Ph.D. in Education. She has been an advocate for immigrant rights, providing information and assistance to undocumented students interested in pursuing higher education.
Iliana recently traveled to Mexico with advance parole under educational purposes. She is part of a research team evaluating a privately provided, affordable comprehensive schooling model for poor families in Mexico City. She applied for advance parole to be in Mexico from July 12-26 and was approved to be there until August 19, 2015.
- Submitted Advance Parole application: May 18, 2015
- USCIS received my application: May 19, 2015
- AP approved: July 5, 2015
- Traveled to Mexico: July 11, 2015
- Returned to US: July 29, 2015
Advice from Iliana:
Did you seek legal counsel for your AP application? Why or why not?
I did not seek legal counsel for my AP application because the application was easy enough for me to do on my own. I did however, request advice from a friend who previously applied.
What is one piece of advice you have for DACA recipients who are thinking of applying for Advance Parole?
Make sure you have all your paperwork up to date (DACA, passport, driver’s license, IDs, etc.). My Mexican passport (issued in the US) was expired when I traveled so I had a difficult time leaving the country (the irony!). I thought I only needed the AP document to travel, but you have to have a valid passport to travel outside the country, otherwise they will not let you out (again, the irony!). I was lucky that they let me travel with my expired passport. I missed my original flight and ended up waiting in the airport most of the day due to other airline issues.
I renewed my Mexican passport in Mexico, but it was a very complicated process. My aunt helped me get copies of my birth certificate and an appointment at La Oficina de Relaciones Exteriores in Pachuca ahead of time. However, once there, they wouldn’t accept my Mexican passport (filed in the US) because it was not filed in Mexico. They wanted a Mexican ID, which I obviously didn’t have. I explained that I hadn’t been in Mexico for 20 years and that I was undocumented, therefore couldn’t apply for a US passport. They then asked for the last passport I filed in Mexico, which I had, but it was obviously expired and cancelled so they did not accept that one either. After six hours of going back and forth and waiting in several lines they finally accepted my Mexican passport (the one issued in the US) and was given my new passport that same day. I also applied for the IFE card (Mexican electorate ID card) for future needs. That process only took about 30 minutes, but it takes about 3 weeks for the card to arrive. I explained I would be out of the country and arranged for my aunt to pick up the card and mail it to me. I panicked for a split second from the thought of having to apply for a Mexican ID and not being able to return to the US in time. Luckily everything worked out, but I highly recommend having all documents up to date before leaving.
What was one of the highlights from your trip abroad?
I had a wonderful time in Mexico and got the opportunity to travel to several states. I spent the first week in Mexico City and nearby towns. I visited most of the major tourist points including El Angel de la Independencia, La Catedral, El Templo Mayor, Bellas Artes, Chapultepec, Museo De Antropologia, La Basilica de Guadalupe, Museo de Frida (Casa Azul) and Xochimilco. The next week I went to my home state, Hidalgo (about 1.5 hours away from Mexico City on car), where I saw family I hadn’t seen in 20 years! I stayed with family in Pachuca, celebrated my great-grandmother’s 101st birthday in Omitlan and visited some beautiful pinturesque towns including Real Del Monte and Huasca. We also visited Teotihuacan (about 30 mins away from Pachuca on car) and did a mini road trip to Veracruz (about 5 hours away from Pachuca on car). I had one of the best meals of my life at Mariscos Toño Bayon in Boca del Rio, Veracruz, a small, family-owned restaurant in the middle of a neighborhood, outside of the main strip… seriously, a must try! The last week consisted of visiting several states on bus. The first stop was Puebla (about 2 hours from Mexico City on bus), which had beautiful architecture, talavera and delicious food (I recommend the Chiles en Nogada and the mole).
I stayed at the Quinta Real Hotel, a lovely and elegant hotel, walking distance to the main plaza. The next stop was Oaxaca (the city is about 4 hours away from Puebla), land of warm water beaches, beautiful architecture, textiles, embroidery, jewelry, moles, mezcal and so much more. The Guelaguetza was going on that week so there were festivals all over the place, but limited hotel availability (plan early if you go this time of year). I stayed at Casa Carlota, a charming B&B style hotel, a few blocks away from the main plaza, which I highly recommend! The next stop was Puerto Escondido (about 5 hours away from Oaxaca City on bus), which looked like paradise. I stayed at Aldea del Bazar, another wonderful hotel, walking distance to a semi-private beach. This day consisted of total relaxation at the Club de Playa, Coco’s. The last stop was to Huatulco (about 2 hours away from Puerto Escondido on bus), which comprises nine bays and 36 beaches. I stayed at Hotel Fandango located in Punta Santa Cruz, with great views of the Bay and a stroll down to a private beach. The last day was spent going on boat ride along the nearby bays and beaches, where I snorkeled for the first time, so much fun! That same day I headed to the airport to return to the US.
The return was hassle-free. I flew out of Huatulco, there they asked for my passport and documentation to enter the US. I showed the attendant the AP document and explained what it was. The flight attendant had never heard of DACA or AP, but they let me through with no issues. In Mexico City (the layover) they asked for the same documents (passport and AP document) to board the plane, no questions were asked. Once in the US (at LAX), I waited in the “Visitors” line for about 45 minutes. The attendant asked for my AP document and was completely familiar with it. They took my picture and fingerprints (standard procedure for everyone) and sent me to a separate waiting room to wait for the AP document to be stamped. I probably waited about 20 minutes before they handed me my copy of the stamped AP document, no questions asked.
I hope my experience sheds light on the AP process. I am happy to answer questions about the process and/or my trip. Good luck to everyone!
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Categories: Advance Parole