Double Tragedy for Mexican Dreamer in Queens

Dreamer Luis Ramírez is unable to travel to the state of Morelos where his mother, Silvia Barreto, lives. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Luis Ramírez’s tragedy is seeing his loved ones suffering and being unable to help. Due to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines set after DACA was revoked, the “DACAmented” Queens resident cannot travel to the Mexican state of Morelos, devastated by the earthquake, to assist his family.

The DHS announced that, starting on September 5, 2017, when DACA was rescinded, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not approve any more advance parole applications (Form I-131), or travel authorizations, under DACA.

The agency said that people with a valid travel permit issued before September 5 “will generally retain the benefit until it expires,” meaning that they are not guaranteed re-entry into the United States and that admission would depend on the discretion of the immigration agent at the point of entry (whether by air, sea or land).

The 7.1 quake that hit on Tuesday caused major damage in the areas of Zacualpan de Amilpas, where Luis grew up, a rural area of Morelos where assistance is arriving very slowly and desperation grows by the hour.

The little adobe and stone house where Silvia Barreto, Luis’ mother, lives, suffered serious structural damage, collapses and cracks. The local department of civic protection determined that the property needs to be demolished, which would leave the Dreamer’s family unprotected.

“My hands are tied as my family suffers. I want to go to Morelos to help my mother, but I can’t. It’s really difficult,” said Luis, 31. “The situation with DACA is uncertain and risky; everything is in limbo.”

For the time being, Luis is only able to send remittances to his mother and pray for the prompt recovery of his family and his municipality. Still, his anguish grows as he sees photographs of the devastation. He remembers Zacualpan de Amilpas as a peaceful town with little colonial houses with balconies and cobblestone streets, but that picture has been transformed by tragedy.

“My family tells me that there is widespread destruction and much need for assistance. My grandma is 94, and (she says that) she has never seen anything like this in her life. For now, she and my mother are staying with my sister. I don’t know where to begin to rebuild her house,” he said.

It took fifteen years for Luis to return to Zacualpan. It happened in the fall of 2014, soon after he obtained DACA. The Dreamer had not set foot in the town since he migrated with his father to New York City as a small child.

His mother was able to travel from Morelos to New York in July thanks to the family reunification program Corazón de Plata – “Silver Heart” – sponsored by the government of Mexico. The reunion was brief but happy. The experience helped ease some of the pain in the midst of tragedy.

“It is some consolation to know that I had my mother here with me. She is not thinking about coming to New York now because she needs to take care of my grandma and my family. Rebuilding her house is a priority,” said Luis. “I need to be with my mother in this moment of pain.”

So far, the 7.1 earthquake registered on Tuesday at 1:14 p.m. has left more than 250 dead across six states, at least 73 of them in Morelos, according to a recent count made by the authorities.

The quake’s epicenter was located in the municipality of Axochiapan, Morelos, some 120 kilometers – 74.5 miles – from Mexico City.

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