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Southern California girl denied entry into US

October 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
If Esmerelda Medina had a choice, she would be back in California starting her sophomore year at Moreno Valley High School.

Instead, the 15-year-old finds herself in Tijuana, Mexico, a foreign city where she can barely speak the language.

"I kinda just miss going home," she said, wiping tears away. "Because it's like I don't have a home."

Medina isn't allowed back into the United States because she is a Mexican citizen who had been living in the U.S. illegally.

"I don't feel comfortable anymore, and it's like not the same coming home because I don't get to see all my family like I used to," she said. "It's not the same."

Medina was only 5 years old when her parents brought her to the U.S. on what's known as a visitor's visa. Her family chose to stay in California even though her visa had expired. Medina grew up like any other California kid, making friends and embracing American culture.

But four months ago, Medina's mother made what she describes as a horrible mistake.

Speaking in Spanish, Araceli Ramos explained she wanted to renew her daughter's visa, so she took her to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana. That's when the only life Medina had ever known started to unravel.

"First they asked me what school do I go to, but I don't go to school here so that was kind of the problem," Medina said.

The U.S. Consulate discovered that Medina and her mother had both been living in the U.S. illegally, so their visas were revoked and both were denied re-entry into America.

"I feel like I ruined her life," Ramos said. "I did this."

The two are staying with relatives in Tijuana and Medina is trying to come to terms with her new reality.

"I don't understand as to, like, I fail all the tests and I don't know how I'm supposed to pass," Medina said about her experience at school in Mexico.

Medina's father is still in Hemet. Her friends are, too.

"She just wants to go back to school because she gets really good grades," said Isaiah Kinder, Medina's friend.

Ironically, Medina was eligible to remain in the U.S. legally, thanks to a new policy that prevents young undocumented immigrants from being deported. President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would have kept Medina in the U.S. had her parents kept her from returning to Mexico.

"I made a bad decision," Ramos said. "I am the one who is at fault."

On June 15, Medina was in the U.S., which made her eligible for the deferment program. But on June 27, her mother took her back to Mexico. That's when she found out she couldn't come back.

"What her mother didn't know was that she wasn't going to be able to renew that visa, and her daughter ended up being stuck in Mexico," said Robert Myers, an immigration attorney working to get Medina back into the U.S.

"In this case her mom brought her here legally on a V2 visa, but then her mom made another mistake in taking her back to Mexico after the policy was announced but before it actually went into effect," Myers said.

Myers says Medina's case is special, and he is working to have her visa renewed on humanitarian grounds. But so far, he's had little success.

"This policy was put in place to not punish children for the actions of their parents or the actions of whoever brought them here," he said.

So for now, mother and daughter remain in Tijuana, waiting for word on whether they will be allowed to return to the U.S.

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.


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