Gaby Pacheco's flight to Ecuador was scheduled to leave at 11:59 pm on April 10. She watched the updates — a slight delay, a gate change — come in on her cellphone. But Pacheco was reading her texts from her home in Miami. She had a ticket, but she wasn't on the plane.
Because she tried to get paperwork from the US immigration system the right way, and it failed her.
"I want to go through the process, and not owe anybody for anything."
I've known Gaby Pacheco since before I started at Vox, and I consider her a friend. She is, generally, a very well-connected woman. She was the political director of advocacy network United We DREAM for a few years. She's helping to administer a $25 million scholarship fund for unauthorized immigrant students, funded by the family that used to own the Washington Post. She's routinely invited to give speeches — just last week, she spoke at a conference at Harvard.
A month ago, Pacheco received a pair of such speaking invitations. One was at a megachurch, the other was at a law school. This is the kind of gig Pacheco does all the time. But these events were in Ecuador, and that complicated things.
Gaby was born in Ecuador, but she left at the age of eight and has lived in the US ever since. She was one of the original beneficiaries of President Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed young unauthorized immigrants to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. (In fact, she was working for United We DREAM during the campaign to get Obama to start the program.) But being "DACAmented" isn't the same as having actual legal status in the US, and one of the ways that comes up is in traveling outside of the country.
Technically, without legal status, if Pacheco were to leave the US she wouldn't be allowed to return. But she could get something called "advance parole," which is basically an official promise from the federal government. If someone is traveling for a...