MCALLEN, Texas (AP) – Eight of the 34 young migrants who presented themselves to immigration officials at the U.S.-Mexico border without legal documents have been released from U.S. custody, a lawyer said Tuesday.
The others remained in detention, but U.S. authorities haven’t said where, immigration attorney David Bennion said.
Nearly all of the group who marched across one of Laredo’s international bridges Monday in colorful graduation gowns and caps say they spent long stretches of their childhoods in the U.S. after being taken there by their families at early ages and are demanding to be let back in.
Bennion said seven were released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office around noon Tuesday. He said they were paroled from removal from the U.S. for one year after requesting asylum and are to appear before immigration judges in the coming months.
He said the eighth was released late Monday. He said she was a Honduran woman who joined the group of young Mexicans who were staying at a migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo before staging the protest. She was trying to enter the U.S. to get medical help for her 4-year-old daughter, who is a U.S. citizen and has cerebral palsy, Bennion said.
“It’s a demonstration that the government can do what we’re asking,” Bennion said, adding that he hoped the remaining 26 would see a similar outcome.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have said privacy laws prohibit them from discussing individual cases.
The protesters were following the path of the “Dream Nine,” a smaller group that attempted to enter the U.S. at Nogales, Arizona, in July. That group requested asylum and was released after about 2 weeks in detention to await their turns before a judge.
At the heart of both groups’ protest was a change to U.S. immigration regulations made in June 2012 giving something called deferred action to immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. Those who were in the U.S. at that time and met a list of criteria could apply for a renewable two-year deferment and work authorization.
But the young people crossing Monday had left the U.S., either voluntarily or through deportation, months, weeks or even just days before the deferred action announcement.
One of the protesters was Edna Flores, 22, of Hermosillo in Sonora state. She was taken by her family illegally to the U.S. when she was 6, but she voluntarily left Phoenix in January 2012 after deciding her options for finding work or continuing her education were limited after graduating from high school.
Flores, who found work in Mexico at a call center, took a 26-hour bus ride last week to Nuevo Laredo to join the group preparing for Monday’s protest march.
“I just want to be back with my family,” she said before they were taken into custody.