DACA recipient travels more than 900 miles to reunite with father after 8-year separation

The DACA-designated daughter of a Mexican immigrant father who was deported back to Mazatlán, Mexico, in 2013, has been reunited with her father for the first time in eight years.

Karime Rodriguez, 23, is among the more than 664,000 Dreamers in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In June, Rodriguez applied for an educational program called Winter of Dreams through the Arizona Dream Act Coalition (ADAC). This in turn made possible her application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for advance parole, which allows an immigrant to travel outside the United States and return lawfully. The educational program gives her the opportunity to take college courses in Mexico City — and to see family she hasn’t been able to see since she was brought to the U.S. as a child. After a five-month process, Rodriguez was approved.

An Instagram video on Rodriguez’s page captures the reunion as it unfolded, bringing everyone in the room to tears and featuring a hug that lasted several minutes.

“To finally be able to see him, it was like a rush of emotions. I started sobbing. I didn’t think that I was going to cry that hard. And like, at one point, it felt really familiar. Like, I really missed the feeling of togetherness,” Rodriguez told Yahoo News.

Rodriguez witnessed her father’s arrest at their home in Arizona when she was 14. Her father was among the more than 401,000 people who were deported in 2013. “We were just having a normal evening at home. My sister and I were in our room, my dad and my mom were in the living room. And all of a sudden we heard a really, really loud knock on the door,” she said.

That was the last moment Rodriguez and her sisters saw their father. Rodriguez described how their world was turned upside down, and the pressure of having to quickly navigate the adult world.

“We had to figure out how we were going to put food on the table, how we were going to pay the bills. I was 14, and as soon as I was 15, I applied for DACA. I did, I got it. And I started working. My oldest sister was going to university at the time, and she had to drop out so that she could start working as well,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s father had been the breadwinner, working construction. She said the rest of her teen years were devoted to working full-time to make ends meet, even while she was also a full-time student. “We spent days without electricity or water or being able to put food on the table,” she added.

Karime Rodriguez, front right, with her boyfriend and family
Karime Rodriguez, front right, with her boyfriend, front left, her sisters and her father at a baseball game in Mazatlán, Mexico. (Courtesy of Karime Rodriguez)

For Rodriguez and her sisters, being back in Mexico has been a dream come true. “We’re building so many memories with our dad at this time that I know it’s going to be hard when we have to say goodbye again. But right now we’re just cherishing every second of it. And I think my best memory so far is probably when we went to a baseball game,” she said.

But Rodriguez said that although she is grateful for being approved for advance parole and allowed to travel, she knows that her family reunion is temporary. That’s why she believes that comprehensive immigration reform be a priority in Congress.

“I think we need immigration reform because there are thousands of families who have lived and are living through this separation,” she said. “And it’s something that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.”