skip to main | skip to sidebar

May 31, 2012

U.S. News: Teen stuck in Mexico over 'Leap Day' error may miss graduation speech

U.S. News
Stories from NBC reporters around the country.
thumbnail Teen stuck in Mexico over 'Leap Day' error may miss graduation speech
May 31st 2012, 15:49

By Miranda Leitsinger,

Elizabeth Olivas, who came to the U.S. illegally at age 4, went to Mexico to get a green card or visa to fulfill requirements of U.S. law and has not been allowed to return since she missed the deadline by a day.

A teen who is slated to give the salutatorian speech at her high school graduation Saturday may miss the big event because of an immigration deadline that she missed by a day.

Elizabeth Olivas, who came from Mexico when she was four, failed to meet a visa requirement by one day due to this year’s “Leap Day” and is sitting in a U.S. Consulate on Thursday awaiting her fate, according to her lawyer.

Olivas, who could get a green card because her father is a U.S. citizen, may be barred from entering the country for three years because of the calendar error. People in her situation are allowed 180 days unlawful presence in the country after their 18thbirthday, but after that time would need a waiver, said her attorney, Sarah Moshe, who provided with emails from her client since Olivas was unavailable for comment.

Olivas traveled from her home in Indiana to Mexico on April 17, the day she believed was her last chance to be within that180-day window. Not knowing how long it might take to get an appointment once she was in Mexico, she chose to stay in the U.S. for as long as she could beforehand, Moshe told

“I would never have sent her had I had any question in my mind,” Moshe said Wednesday evening, noting two legal calculators they had used said Olivas would need to be in Mexico on April 17, not April 16, to apply for an immigrant visa.  “It was a very innocent mistake … we were aware within days essentially and tried very hard to work in that timeframe but to no avail.”

Olivas, who turned 18 on Oct. 18, 2011, is at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez seeking an expedited waiver that could allow her to return home as soon as Friday. She is graduating from Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Ind., with a GPA over 3.9, was winter homecoming queen and has already been accepted into nursing programs. As part of the 400-page waiver application she is submitting at least 25 letters of support from her instructors, Moshe said.

Waiting at her paternal grandparents’ home in Chihuahua, Mexico – relatives she had not met before – she has experienced the highs and lows of the slow-moving immigration process. She has also missed her prom, Moshe said.

“In the past, on the days when there’s been no movement, it’s been really hard for her,” Moshe said. “Dealing with huge government agencies, there are days when nobody responds to email or returns a phone call. But she’s really excited right now, I mean she’s really hopeful.”

Almost-deported valedictorian helps introduce immigration reform bill

That latter sentiment was echoed in another email Olivas sent to Moshe on Wednesday: “I feel prepared and excited for what might come next!”

Principal Steve Edwards told the Indianapolis Star that Olivas has done her homework online while she has been in Mexico and her grades had not been affected.

"This is a very skilled, talented, beautiful young lady. This hurts me and is one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with in my life."

For the waiver application, Moshe is arguing that Olivas’ absence would prove a medical hardship on her father, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, among other ailments. If consular officials accept this, then the three-year bar could be waived.

“Last time he was in my office, he literally put his hand in front of me and stuck a finger out and said take my finger if you need to, just do anything,” Moshe said.

Can an illegal immigrant become a lawyer?

Maria Elena-Upson, a Dallas-based spokeswoman for USCIS, told the Indianapolis Star that the agency normally took applications as they came in and not out of turn. The process typically takes two to three months.

"I can sympathize with this situation, but it would not be correct," Elena-Upson told the newspaper.

Moshe said she would appeal if the consulate denies Olivas’ waiver application but it could mean that the teen would be stuck in Mexico.

Mom of deported teen runaway files federal lawsuit

“Don’t make an example of Elizabeth because this was innocent error,” Moshe said, noting that the family and their previous attorneys had “tried to do the right thing throughout the years.”

“Her family has been trying tirelessly to legalize her status so I would just ask that they (consular officials) please give careful consideration to this case … Elizabeth is exactly the kind of person we want as a member of our community.”

More content from and NBC News:

Follow US News on on Twitter and Facebook

You are receiving this email because you subscribed to this feed at

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, you can unsubscribe from this feed, or manage all your subscriptions

TOP POPULAR NEWS Powered by Blogger