Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.
Esmerelda Medina, 15, grew up in California like any other child, going to school and making friends. But now she is stuck in Tijuana, Mexico, where she can barely speak the language, ABC reports.
Four months ago, the teenager’s mother took Medina to Mexico to renew her visa at the US Consulate. However, because Medina, a Mexican citizen, was brought to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa that has since expired, she had been living in California illegally. The consulate denied both Medina and her mother re-entry into the U.S.
“I kinda just miss going home,” said Medina, who had been living in California since she was five years old. “It’s like I don’t have a home.”
Right now, Medina is separated from her father, friends and school in the U.S. If she’s ever allowed to return, she’ll still be separated from her mother, who must remain in Mexico.
Ironically, Medina would have been eligible to remain in the U.S. if she had signed up for President Barack Obama’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under DACA, young undocumented immigrants can apply for protection against deportation if they meet certain criteria, including having entered the U.S. as a child, having a clean criminal record and attending school.
As of Oct 12, nearly 4,600 young undocumented immigrants have been granted deferred action through the program, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier this month, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said last week that, if elected, he would end the deferred action policy but honor the applications already approved under the Obama administration.
Immigration attorney Robert Myers is working to get Medina back into the U.S. on humanitarian grounds but has had little success. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it’s reviewing the case, but as it stands, Medina will not be eligible for another visa for at least three years.
Medina is not the first child to be separated her from her parents because of immigration laws. Last year, a four-year-old girl born in New York was detained by immigration officials and then sent back to Guatemala, separating her from her parents. The girl was detained in Dulles International Airport when authorities stopped her grandfather on an illegal entry charge from more than a decade ago.