Oscar Vazquez recieves a waiver from the U.S. Government, he is now legal!
He took a big risk and won!
Senator Richard Durbin's webpage on Oscar Vazquez
Senator Durbin speaking on behalf of Oscar Vazquez on the floor of the US senate
ASU engineering grad returns to Mexico trying to do the right thing
A year later, Vazquez sat in a dark bedroom in this dusty city, his engineering degree tucked in a scrapbook filled with other mementos of his college days.
"I decided to take a gamble and do the right thing," he said.
Shortly after graduation in May 2009, Vazquez moved to Mexico, separating himself from his U.S. citizen wife and year-old daughter in Phoenix. He figures to remain here at least through March, when, according to a letter from the government, authorities will decide whether he can legally return to the United States.
Vazquez stands by his decision to turn himself in.
"I've got to stay positive," he said. "I have to. Or else you get depressed just being here by myself."
Vazquez, 24, did not want to enter the United States illegally. But he was 12 and, despite his protests, did as his mother told him.
As he got close to college graduation, though, Vazquez knew he had gone as far as an illegal immigrant could go. Companies that hired college graduates did not look the other way when it came to immigration status, something Vazquez learned when he was denied college internships.
"I didn't want to get stuck in a low-end job and not be able to apply my degree to anything," he said.
Vazquez is seeking a waiver of grounds of excludability - essentially asking the government to forgive his illegal presence in the country and allow him to stay. Under the law, because Vazquez illegally remained in the country for so long after his 18th birthday, he is barred from the U.S. for 10 years.
Vazquez must make his case through paperwork. He waits in Mexico for the bureaucracy to churn out a de
"So far," Vazquez said, "the right way has been pretty hard."
Vazquez tries to keep himself busy so he doesn't dwell on his situation. He's teaching himself guitar. He's re-reading his college textbooks on rocketry and aerodynamics. He has a dirt bike, a great mode of transportation in this hilly town, where most streets are unpaved. The bike also is something for him to tinker with, keeping his mechanical skills sharp.
"Say hi," Karla told the couple's daughter, Samantha. "Say hi to your daddy."
Vazquez leaned in and tickled Samantha's chin as Karla held her. The couple greeted each other with a quick embrace and a peck, as if Karla had just returned from the store, not a weeks-long separation. Karla said the two want to keep their emotions in check so that Samantha doesn't sense anything unusual. They hope this is resolved in March and that the baby won't remember being separated from her father.
Vazquez doesn't want to miss more of his daughter growing up. She took her first steps two weeks before Vazquez crossed into Mexico, the last milestone he was there to see.
When these trips started, the baby would recoil from Vazquez.
"It did take awhile for her to warm up," Karla said, as Oscar sat on the floor playing with Samantha. "She wouldn't go with him."
The three spend their visits in the apartment. No plans. They just want to be together.
Vazquez and his wife thought about, but quickly dismissed, the idea of the family moving together to Mexico to wait for the U.S. government's decision. "It's better for them to stay back home," Vazquez said. "There's nothing for them to come here for."
In his way, Vazquez is making the same sacrifice his father did: crossing a border in hopes of a better life. Vazquez's father, who lives in Phoenix, left the family's small village of Temósachic in Chihuahua and found work in a Phoenix factory that made box springs. He arranged for his wife and son to join him, but Vazquez didn't want to go. He had done well in primary school and won a middle-school scholarship, money his mother used instead on bus tickets to the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora. Vazquez remained silent on the seven-hour bus ride.
A man drove them to a hole in the border fence and told them to run. It seemed like a marathon to the young Vazquez, though he would later discover it was less than a mile to the Walmart parking lot in Douglas, where they were loaded into a car and driven to Phoenix.
Vazquez excelled at Carl Hayden Community High School in west Phoenix, sticking with the ROTC program even after finding out he couldn't join the military because of his legal status.
Vazquez gained a passion for engineering through the school's robotics club. He and three other club members beat out colleges - including MIT - to win a national underwater-robot competition. Their victory was detailed in Wired magazine.
There's no way to know how many college graduates have sought permission to become legal residents. Most, Vazquez said, still are hoping Congress passes the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to immigrants who entered as children and went to college or joined the military.
Vazquez said he simply grew frustrated and wanted to take action.
"At least now we know the path we have to take," he said. "It's better to know than it is to be waiting."
Vazquez e-mailed advice to a fellow Arizona student who was trying the same process. In mid-June, he heard that the government had granted her waiver. He doesn't know why she was let in and he hasn't been.
Vazquez's character and accomplishments won't enter into the government's decision. The deciding factor is whether his exclusion from the country would cause "extreme hardship" for his wife.
Karla, a Phoenix native, is angry that her country has to ponder whether her husband of five years can live with his family.
"I see the part where, OK, everyone says they want to secure the border because - you know what? - there are a lot of bad people who come over," she said. "But for everyone who was brought over a child - they don't have a choice."
If Vazquez is denied re-entry, the family probably will move to Canada or Europe. Vazquez's engineering degree means he can find a job fairly easily.
"As it sits right now, I can go anywhere in the world except the United States," he said.
Vazquez tries to keep his situation in perspective. He likens the time away from his wife and daughter to military members serving overseas - fitting because Vazquez still wants to join the service, possibly the Marines, if he isn't too old when he gains residency status.
When he began this process, Vazquez wasn't sure how long he'd be away from his family. Karla and Samantha accompanied him to Juarez in September for his initial hearing.
He was denied his waiver, filed an appeal and was told to expect an answer in two months. He said goodbye to his wife and daughter and moved in with relatives back in his remote hometown, tucked into the mountains of Chihuahua, hoping it would be a brief separation.
But in November, he was told he needed to show more evidence of extreme hardship to his wife. The letter said his case would require further review and that he could expect an answer in 15 months.
Vazquez wanted to live somewhere close enough for his wife and daughter to visit often. But he didn't want to live in a border town because he thought it would be too dangerous. Magdalena, about an hour's drive south of the border, seemed the best choice.
But even in this sparsely populated town, locals told Vazquez not to wear a seat belt. In a hijacking, they told him, it's easier to get away if you're not strapped in.
Vazquez was hired at the auto-parts factory and quickly promoted to night supervisor. Some co-workers know he has an engineering degree.
"They always wonder, 'How come you're here if you're an engineer?' " Vazquez said. "It seems odd to them."
It seems odd to Vazquez, too. And if he allows himself to think about it, his frustration builds. He wants to use his education to contribute to the United States, which has to import engineers.
When he graduated, everyone, including President Obama, was applauding his achievement and his potential. It's hard to think the country would let all that go to waste.
"They have me," he said, his voice rising. "They schooled me. I know the culture. I know everything.
"And yet I'm not good enough to live back there."
by Richard Ruelas - Aug. 30, 2010 11:42 AM
The Arizona Republic
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/tempe/articles/2010/08/30/20100830asu-grad-self-deported-returns-arizona-legal-citizen.html#ixzz1hrHZ76zA
The illegal immigrant, a recent Arizona State University graduate, knew he would need to obtain the necessary documents if he ever wanted to put his hard-earned engineering degree to work.Last year he essentially deported himself, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter to do what he said was the right thing - obtain legal residency.And as he settled into Mexico after filing all the paperwork, he feared the wait could stretch on for years. But the timely intervention of a U.S. Senator played a key role in Vazquez's return.Vazquez, who received international media attention as a high school student when his robotics team won a collegiate competition, had another splash of publicity with his struggle to reverse his illegal status. His story was told in the The Arizona Republic, on CNN and on the floor of the U.S. Senate.When Vazquez graduated from Arizona State University in 2009, he was one of the featured graduates whose tale was told in front of the stadium, where attendees included commencement speaker President Barack Obama.But Vazquez knew his legal status would prevent him from using his degree. So, he decided to turn himself in at the consulate in Juarez, Mexico, admit his illegal presence, and apply for permission to re-enter.
The government initially denied Vazquez's request and asked for additional paperwork, documenting the hardship to his wife and daughter, both U.S. citizens.Officials told him to expect a final answer in March. Meanwhile, Vazquez was living in Magdalena del Kino, a dusty town in Sonora, Mexico, working a night shift at an automobile parts factory.Vazquez said he was contacted by the office of Sen. Dick Dubin, D-Illinois. Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, is a proponent of the Dream Act, legislation that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who entered as children and had attended college or joined the military.Vazquez said he once Durbin was involved, "it was fast."
A Durbin aide, who would only speak about the case on the condition his name wasn't used, said the office did make the Department of Homeland Security aware of the case.Vazquez's story was told in the Republic on July 4. On July 14, his wife, Karla Vazquez, received the letter saying her husband's visa waiver had been approved.Karla Vazquez, who had been taking regular trips to Mexico, to visit with her husband was about to head down for another trip when she decided to check the mail and saw the letter from the government.
Oscar Vazquez had his appointment at the U.S. Consulate on Thursday. He received a packet of paperwork on Friday that allowed him to cross back into the United States.It was a much different entrance than his first one, at age 12. He and his mother dashed across the border near Douglas into a car waiting at a Wal-Mart parking lot.This entry was short on ceremony. Vazquez, 24, said a nearly emotionless-clerk told him that with his visa he was allowed to live and work in the United States.Vazquez walked out onto American soil and waited to catch a bus into Phoenix. Before then, he had a meal of KFC.His wife met him at the bus station. "It's just hard to describe," Oscar Vazquez said, about seeing his wife and daughter. "It's amazing just to be back home."Vazquez said he realized his was a unique case and that he was aided by political pressure. Had it not been for the publicity and a politician's intervention, he thinks he would have been denied.
Had Vazquez been denied his waiver, he would have been barred from entering the United States for 10 years. He and his wife had discussed plans of moving to Mexico City, Canada or Europe.Vazquez expects to receive his Social Security card in about two weeks and will start looking for work in the engineering field.Vazquez was on the Carl Hayden High School team that beat out several colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an underwater robotics competition. The triumph of the four undocumented high school students was featured inWired magazine. Other national media outlets picked up the story. Movie offers followed.
On Monday, Vazquez showed up at Carl Hayden High School to talk with his robotics coach, Faridodin Lajvardi. Two other members of that four-person team also showed up, making for an impromptu reunion of that victorious team from 2007.
Vazquez is now serving the country that he battled bureaucratically the previous two years. Shortly after his college graduation in May 2009, Vazquez left for Mexico and tried to re-enter the United States legally. It was a slow, frustrating process. The U.S. government barred Vazquez from returning for more than a year, keeping him separated from his wife and infant daughter.