Woman Detained, Voluntarily Deported Pending Legal Status
MCALLEN – A woman is questioning why she was deported while processing paperwork to become a legal permanent resident.
Monterrey native Myriam Salazar said she entered the U.S. on a tourist visa last December.
Salazar said she filed paperwork to become a legal permanent resident in January 2017. She said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services completed her fingerprint requirements in February and she was awaiting her interview date.
Salazar told CHANNEL 5 NEWS she wanted to visit facility in San Antonio but wanted to make sure she could travel past the checkpoint. She said her husband recommended they first make sure traveling outside the Rio Grande Valley was legal under her pending case.
Equipped with her tourist visa along with proof of her pending paperwork, Salazar said she experienced the unexpected when she talked to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the Pharr port of entry.
“The officer told me, ‘To us, you are in the country illegally, so I have to ask you to sign a voluntary deportation or else I’ll have to detain and deport you,’” she said.
Salazar said she was detained and given a voluntary deportation form. She signed the form and was released into Reynosa, Mexico.
Immigration attorney Alejandro Martinez said Salazar was not unlawfully in the country, claiming her detainment and the CBP officer's request for deportation was a mistake.
According to Martinez, individuals that have a residency application pending are authorized to stay in the U.S.
CHANNEL FIVE NEWS contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ICE, USCIS, CBP and the Texas Department of State.
CBP was the only agency allowed to comment on the matter. A spokesperson with the agency said they could not comment on specific cases and sent us the following statement, which reads in part:
"CBP shall determine if an alien is unlawfully present in the U.S., is engaged in unlawful employment or has violated any provision of the Immigration & Nationality Act making the alien subject to administrative removal."
Salazar said her tourist visa was taken from her by officers at the Pharr International Bridge.
Martinez said he’s working to figure out what happens now with Salazar's pending immigration case.
He said the biggest question he has following this case is what it means for others pending a legal status in the U.S.
CHANNEL FIVE NEWS directed the same question to law enforcement. But DHS declined to comment stating "hypothetical questions can easily fail to include all relevant facts considered in the administration of United States immigration laws.”