Guatemala-born DACA winner Luis Grijalva, finally approved for the Olympics

Long distance runner Luis Grijalva heads to Tokyo and the Olympics. Soon he will be wearing a Guatemalan shirt.

Since qualifying for the Olympics in June, Grijalva, 22, a recipient of Delayed Action for the Arrival of Children (DACA) and a former student-athlete at Northern Arizona University (NAU), has been desperately searching for the permission from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will leave the United States in time to compete on August 3 with the Guatemalan contingent in Tokyo.

A complicated series of events took place. DACA recipients need special permission from the USCIS to leave and re-enter the country, including for the Olympics.

In June, Grijalva took second place and a silver medal with a time of 13: 13.1 in the men’s 5,000-meter race at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. The time was a NAU and Big Sky Conference record, and surpassed the Olympic standard time of 13: 13.5, thus earning the Olympic qualification.

Before representing NAU and winning the 2018 All-American for the Lumberjacks, Grijalva, while competing at Armijo High School in Fairfield, California, won the 2016 CIF State Cross Country Championship title in Fresno.

Like the roughly 800,000 immigrants registered under DACA, or DREAMers, he has received protection from deportation, a driver’s license, and a social security number, but permission to leave the country and tenant can take months of red tape.

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Valley immigration attorney Jessica Smith-Bobadilla and Grijalva quickly applied to the USCIS in Phoenix for the necessary permission. As the days approached for the start of athletics events in Tokyo, Smith-Bobadilla boarded a plane from California to Arizona in time for a Monday morning meeting at the USCIS office in Phoenix.

Smith-Bobadilla enlisted the help of Congressman Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, 1st District, and Senator Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, to allow USCIS officials in Arizona to view Grijalva’s file.

The official news came through a phone call from the USCIS.

“We were in the rental car together and we found out after so much back and forth that we were both very impressed,” Smith-Bobadilla said.

The second request was quickly submitted, accompanied by a second $ 575 and much more in the form of written support for Grijalva. He soon received the advanced reentry document, which allows him to return to the United States.

“Young DREAMers are our neighbors, students, doctors and teachers, and they deserve stability and access to the tools they need to pursue their dreams,” O’Halleran said on his website. “I applaud the hard work of the social workers on my team to help defend Luis and obtain the necessary permits to bring him to Tokyo to pursue his dreams. “

The representatives, Smith-Bobadilla added, were instrumental in getting Grijalva’s request notified and receiving a “high priority emergency” review.

“I’m very persistent if I get attached to something, I really try to be aggressive, I try to talk to people and I try to overcome obstacles,” Smith-Bobadilla said.

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At 1, Grijalva came to New York City from Guatemala with her parents and two brothers in 2000. At 3, the entire family moved to California.

Dan Casarez covers the city of Tulare for the Advance-Register. Report for America body member with GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of local journalists in the United States and around the world.