By Roque Planas
An undocumented woman who was deported this week after traveling to Mexico, even though she had authorization to make the trip to her native country, will be allowed to return to the U.S., but will likely be placed in deportation proceedings when she arrives, her lawyer said Thursday.
The deportation of Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martinez on Tuesday raised concerns among immigrant rights groups that U.S. authorities are disregarding “advance parole” documents, which allow some undocumented immigrants to travel to their native countries and then return to the United States.
Born in Mexico, Cortez-Martinez, 32, had lived in the United States since the age of 15. Though undocumented, Cortez-Martinez had obtained a temporary, renewable authorization to live and work in the United States under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which shields undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors from deportation. She then obtained “advance parole” to visit family in Mexico.
But when she tried to return from Mexico to her home in Northern Indiana on Sunday, immigration authorities detained her at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. They said she wasn’t eligible to enter the country because she had a deportation order from 2004, according to her lawyer, Mony Ruiz-Velasco.
After detaining her for more than a day at the airport, immigration authorities told Cortez-Martinez they planned to put her on flight to Morelia, Mexico.
“I started to panic and told them I didn’t know anybody there,” Cortez-Martinez said Thursday on a call with reporters. “They said I had no other option but to board that flight.”
Cortez-Martinez was deported on Tuesday, returning to Mexico with two of her three children, all of whom were born in the United States. Her oldest child had remained in Indiana while Cortez-Martinez visited Mexico with the other two.
Customs and Border Protection officials had insisted that she was not eligible to enter the United States. Ruiz-Velasco said she was not able to speak with her client while she was detained at the airport.
CBP declined to discuss the specifics of Cortez-Martinez’s case or the terms on which she’s been allowed to return to the U.S., citing privacy restrictions, but spokesman Dan Hetlage said in a statement that “applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the U.S.”
Ruiz-Velasco said her client had in fact been deported in 2004, but the deportation order had not disqualified her from receiving her DACA authorization or the advance parole.
“My hope is that they cancel my deportation and I will be able to be with my husband and my older son,” Cortez-Martinez said on Thursday’s call.
When she returns, however, she will face more legal problems. It’s unclear whether she will be detained and whether her deportation this week will disqualify her from DACA.
“Immigration authorities will have to redetermine her DACA status,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “But Lesly is eligible for DACA and was eligible for DACA when she applied. Our hope is that they will restore her status.”