WASHINGTON, D.C. — Francisco López decided two years ago to leave the United States for Mexico. Trump times had weighed heavy on López, an undocumented immigrant living in the United States since he was five years old.
“If I’m talking about this now,” López told Latino Rebels, “it’s primarily because I still think about DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] beneficiaries and non-DACA DREAMers. And as someone who made the drastic move of leaving and understands all of the emotions, struggles, and anger, I feel like I’m sort of in a position to tell them it’s okay if you decide to stay and wait it out, but it’s also okay if you decide to leave. Neither decision is easy.”
In an effort to call more attention, López has proposed a TED Talk event in Mexico with President Obama as the headliner. Hoping that the TED Talk could happen before spring of next year, López invited the former president through the Office of Barack and Michele Obama last week but has not received a reply.
“What better way to address DACA than by having the person who issued the executive order that created the program? Moreover, we’d have President Obama, in Mexico, addressing an audience of DACA beneficiaries who were able to visit their countries of origin after years, decades, of not being able to do so,” López said.
The 36-year-old López has had a career in public policy, having once interned for the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), who represents a northern portion of the San Francisco Bay area.
“I’m a 49er fan,” López said. “I lived in San Jose, Napa, Berkeley, San Francisco, East Bay. It’s a weird feeling knowing that I cannot go back to my places of origin, but I can visit Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Chiapas which is beautiful.”
“I did apply for DACA but was denied because I had a visa through my job at the [Mexican] consulate,” added López, where, ironically, part of his job was promoting DACA sign-ups.
In 2017, López earned admission into law school at American University.
“I had an immigration application pending that had been recommended for approval by a USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] officer after my interview,” López recalled. “But it was like looking into a black hole.”
The willful policy destruction by the Trump administration on the White House immigration portfolio had frustrated López to no end.
“Some very pessimistic emotions, rollercoaster emotions” is how López described his mindset as he waited.
Seeing no real developments or progress on his application, López finally left the U.S. in December of 2019 after receiving a job offer from a tech startup in Mexico.
“The only reason why I’m doing this is that I still feel for the DACA beneficiaries back home who need a reason to depart for their country of origin,” López said. “This is a reason for them to come to Mexico.”
DACA beneficiaries can only leave the country for three reasons: employment, academic, or humanitarian. USCIS must be petitioned by a DACA recipient prior to their departure abroad. It is unclear if USCIS would approve DACA recipient travel to attend a TED Talk in Mexico. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not immediately reply to questions from Latino Rebels.
Earlier this summer, a federal judge put a pause on DACA, but according to USCIS, “DHS will continue to grant or deny renewal DACA requests, according to existing policy.”
Pablo Manríquez is Latino Rebels’ Washington correspondent. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.