Two Tucson women are among 25 illegal immigrants who have been detained for weeks at a Texas facility after trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico without legal documents in late September.
Lorena Vargas, 19, and Nallely Buenrostro, 27, joined 32 other “Dreamers” — young people brought to the United States illegally as children — and presented themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, on Sept. 30.
Nine of the participants, were released from a detention center in early October and were granted parole from removal from the U.S. for one year after requesting asylum, The Associated Press reported.
Six of the so-called Dream 30 were from Arizona.
A similar protest was staged in July when nine Dreamers seeking humanitarian parole tried to cross into the United States at the Morley Gate in Nogales.
The Dream 9, as they became known, were released from the Eloy Detention Center and granted temporary parole after being detained for 17 days.
The risky protests aim to bring awareness to immigration issues and are an attempt by the young people to be reunited with their families in the United States.
According to the families of the women from Tucson, the women considered the protest a last shot at coming home.
Vargas, who was born in Michoacan state, was brought to the U.S. at age 6. In February 2012, Vargas left, in the middle of her junior year of high school, for Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for a visa interview at the U.S. Consulate. Her departure came just a few months before the June 2012 deferred action announcement, an executive order issued by President Obama that could have allowed her to remain in the country.
Her visa application was denied when officials found her birth certificate from 1993 wasn’t filed until 2002 and determined Vargas must have left the United States to file the paperwork in Mexico, her stepfather, Daniel Aguilera, said. Records from the Sunnyside Unified School District confirm Vargas was in class in Tucson the day her birth certificate was filed, Aguilera said.
In the 18 months since Vargas left for Juarez, she’s tried to enroll in school, but found the language barrier too challenging. While living in Agua Prieta, Sonora, she was sexually assaulted by a neighbor, so she moved in with family in Michoacan, but was kicked out when they found out she is lesbian, Aguilera said.
In early October, Vargas had an interview with an asylum officer to determine if she had a credible fear of persecution or torture in her native country, a step in the asylum process. Last week, immigration officials approved Vargas’ credible- fear claim but did not give a date for her release from custody, Aguilera said.
But the news is bittersweet for Vargas and her family.
“We were pleased, as well as Lorena, but at the same time, we’re saddened because of the decisions that have been rendered so far,” Aguilera said, noting most credible fear claims have been denied. “And so Lorena, when we spoke with her, was a little upset because the other folks that she’s there with aren’t quite as lucky.”
Buenrostro, the other woman from Tucson, learned last week her credible-fear claim was denied and now her fate rests with an immigration judge who will decide whether to affirm the decision, which would lead to her deportation.
She decided to participate in the protest in an attempt to be reunited with her 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
“They are the ones who need her,” said her mother, Maria Buenrostro.
Nallely Buenrostro moved to the United States when she was 7 and attended elementary through high school in Tucson. In 2010, she returned to Mexico to visit her father, who was very ill, and thought family in Sonora would help her apply for a visa to return to the United States, her mother said.
Nallely Buenrostro had also grown more fearful of living in the United States without authorization after Arizona passed stricter immigration laws.
“I was afraid to go to the store because you never knew if you were going to make it back home,” she said in a petition asking for her release that was posted on the website Dream Activist, a network for undocumented youth.
While in Hermosillo, Sonora, Nallely Buenrostro lost the support of her extended family and moved to Nogales, Sonora, to be closer to her two children, whom she would see on the weekends.
Nallely Buenrostro has been unable to find a job, her mother said. She also fears becoming a victim of the violence in her neighborhood.
Of the 25 dreamers who had credible fear interviews, nine of their cases were denied, said Dave Bennion, a Philadelphia-based attorney representing the group.
“It’s almost unheard of for credible-fear interviews to be denied and certainly at the level that they have been in these cases,” Bennion said. “It’s unusually high, and I see that very much as being driven by the political implications of the action.”
Of those decisions, only one was overturned by a judge, Bennion said.
Families of the Dream 30 have called upon lawmakers to support the group and ask for their release by staging rallies and sit-ins at congressional offices.
There may still be hope for Nallely Buenrostro and the other Dreamers whose credible-fear claims were denied.
Before the demonstration, the group submitted requests seeking humanitarian parole to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bennion said.
The agency has yet to make decisions on those requests.
“They could release all of these individuals into the U.S. to fight their cases here. Ultimately that’s what they did with the Dream 9,” Bennion said. “So that’s what we’re asking for, and especially for Nallely’s case it becomes very important.”