Saturday, June 22, 2024

DREAMEr qualifies for the Olympics, but his DACA status almost kept him away

Runner Luis Grijalva, an Arizona college student, got the news that he will be going to Tokyo to participate in the Olympics, representing his native country, Guatemala.

However, in his case, being able to live his dream as an Olympian went beyond qualifying as an athlete. Grijalva was named to the Guatemalan Olympic team last month, after he finished second in the NCAA 5,000- meter final for Northern Arizona University with a time of 13 minutes, 13.14 seconds.

He came to the U.S. with his family when he was only 1 year old and he’s in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Although DREAMers are not allowed to travel outside of the U.S., there are exceptions as long as they can provide a valid reason related to humanitarian, educational, or employment purposes.

Grijalva said, “If I don’t get the permit in time and if I do go to the Games, then technically I’ll be self-deporting, which — I won’t go if I don’t get the permit. It would be an honor and a privilege to represent my home country but also be able to be a voice and represent over 600,000 DREAMers like me. Tomorrow morning, I will be marching down the USCIS office in Phoenix to make one last effort in gaining an advance parole that allows me to leave the country and be able to return safely.”

While Guatemala’s coaches and runners left for Tokyo on Sunday, Grijalva went to Phoenix with his lawyer, Jessica Smooth Bobadilla, to visit the government’s immigration office on Monday to request a special permit to leave the country, a process that normally takes 90 days. On top of that, he needed it by Wednesday to compete in the Olympics.

After waiting for hours in the office, he finally heard the news: he was approved. Now he will be flying out later this week to run for Guatemala on August 3rd for the preliminary 5,000- meter race. “It’s just a lot of emotions — excitement, just really happy. Excited to run at the Games and represent Guatemala, but also to leave the country and know I can return to the country safely,” said Grijalva.