MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Harvard University student who was stuck for months in Mexico after crossing the border without permission said Wednesday he hopes to be back in the United States in less than a week after being granted a humanitarian visa.
Dario Guerrero Meneses, who was taken from Mexico to California by his parents at age 2 and only learned of his illegal status as a young adult, left the U.S. to accompany his dying mother who was seeking alternative cancer treatments. The 21-year-old told The Associated Press he will fulfill her last request and carry her ashes to the family's home in Los Angeles.
"I have to be back home with my dad, my brother and sister, and I have to go back to school," he said in an interview in the poor Mexico City suburb of Nezahualcoyotl, where his grandparents live. "These goals cannot be blocked because of immigration issues. I think there is still a lot for me to do in the U.S., a lot of dreams to make come true and my legal status shouldn't impede that."
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service had declared that Guerrero effectively deported himself when he crossed the border into Mexico without permission.
His mother died in August, and the agency denied Guerrero's initial attempts to return home to California.
But on Tuesday the agency sent Guerrero a letter through his lawyer saying he had been granted humanitarian parole and would be allowed to return after all. His parole is temporary. It lasts for two years and does not give him legal residency, let alone a clear path to U.S. citizenship.
Guerrero was one of hundreds of thousands of young people granted a reprieve from deportation in 2012 by the Obama administration.
Now a student at Harvard, he said he applied through the normal process for travel permission to bring his mother to Mexico for treatment and then waited a month and a half for a response as her life ebbed away. He twice submitted requests for fast-track handling and was told to more fully document his mother's condition. He could have tried to plead his case in person, but he left instead.
Guerrero's 16-year-old brother also was by their mother's side when Rocio Meneses Diaz died Aug. 14 at age 41 in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. As a U.S.-born citizen, he was allowed to travel freely.
Their father, a building contractor in the U.S. illegally, stayed behind with their 9-year-old sister, also a citizen, at their home in Long Beach. Guerrero now thinks his mother would have been happier living her final days there.
"I consider home to be Los Angeles, California, where I grew up, where my father, brother and sister are, where my family lived my whole life. I don't know how my life will play out. But for now my identity is an undocumented person, an undocumented Mexican living in the U.S," he said.