High school senior Elizabeth Olivas thought she would be enjoying the last days at her Indiana high school with her classmates before graduating on Saturday.
Instead, the Frankfort High School homecoming queen is in her native Mexico, caught up in an immigration technicality that has her future in the United States straddled between U.S. government agencies, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Olivas has lived in the U.S. since the age 4, and her father is a naturalized U.S. citizen. But after turning 18, according to the law, she had 180 days to return to Mexico to apply for a long-term visa to the United States. Without that visa she would become an illegal immigrant. So Olivas and her father took the trip down to the Juarez consulate, only to realize they were one day late. Now she must wait three years before entering the country again, unless she receives a "humanitarian patrole" visa waiver.
According to the Star, Olivas' tardiness in getting to Mexico was a combination of her wanting to miss as little school as possible and a date accounting error by her immigration lawyer.
Sarah Moshe, Olivas' lawyer, told the paper that her firm did not take into account that this is a leap year. Many law firms use legal calendars as a way of tracking important dates that do not add the extra day in February.
"She feels awful, terrible, devastated," Moshe said of the student. "The whole situation is crazy."
Classmates of Olivas are also sad about the situation, and Frankfort high school principal Steve Edwards told the Star that it's one of the hardest things he's ever dealt with.
"This is a very skilled, talented, beautiful young lady," he said.
Though visas are issued by the State Department, humanitarian parole waivers for those who have violated immigration law must be issued under the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen and Immigration Services.
Today deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that the State Department can't comment on specific individual visa issues, but in a case in which humanitarian parole is granted the State Department would "process an application as quickly as possible."
Time is not on Olivas's side. Waivers can take anywhere from three to eight months to be issued. A spokesperson for the Department of Citizen and Immigration Services in Dallas told the Star that Olivas will have to wait her turn.
She's already waited in Mexico for six weeks, missing most of her high school senior milestones, including prom and an academic achievement ceremony. With a near 4.0 grade point average, Olivas will graduate as one of the top students at the school. But now it seems unlikely that she will attend that graduation or get the chance to give a salutation speech about the bright future ahead for herself and her American classmates.