Angelo Cabrera, Bronx community activist and a long time New Yorker, wins sought legal immigration waiver to return to New York and continue his community outreach.
In his early years, Angelo worked in places where he was often exploited. Everything changed when he found a better job at a Manhattan deli and met a generous coworker who helped him pursue a high school degree. While studying, Angelo continued to work for 12 years at a deli where his wages topped out at $9.50 per hour. In 2013 he graduated from Baruch College with a Master’s in Public Administration. During his time in the states, Angelo was also a leader interested in improving the community in New York. He founded the Mexican American Student Alliance (MASA) which focused on mentoring and educating Mexicans American students and families in the South Bronx. Through this work, he was awarded the “Rising Star Award” from the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, for his devotion to improving the lives of immigrants.
Shortly after graduation, Angelo was offered a job at Baruch College as a community and social services specialist. In this job, Angelo would help enroll other Mexican American students in the City University of New York system. Before he could accept the job offer he had to travel back to his native country to fix his immigration status and do things legally. Angelo’s plan to return home was risky, but he wanted to apply for immigration the right way. The law in 2014 stated that people who lived illegally in the U.S. for more than a year were prohibited to apply for reentry for 10 years. Angelo was hoping to receive a waiver to this law to go back and work under humanitarian purposes.
After 24 years, Angelo returned home in 2014 to San Antonio Texcala in Mexico. Mariachis and almost the entire population of his town waited for him at the entrance of the village for a welcoming party. His mother, who was now blind because of an illness, was there and embraced him.
“A mother never gets tired of waiting for her son,” said Irma Rodriguez. She patted his face trying to imagine what he looked like.
Angelo waited five months for the American government response for his waiver to work in the United States. His application was denied. Angelo’s whole world started to vanish and he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to apply for another visa until 2024.
“I realized I was in a country [Mexico] that I knew very little about because much of my life has been in New York. My home, for 24 years, was and still is NYC,” said Angelo. He felt lost, devastated and unsure about his future.
Angelo’s story was featured in media outlets throughout the U.S. and Mexico. The press attention helped to garner support from different organizations. Daily Kos and Change.org launched campaigns for his case, which attracted over 25,000 supporters including Congressman Joseph Crowley and Senator Kristen Gillibrand. The campaigns called on the Department of Homeland Security to reverse their decision. Shortly after, Angelo’s case was reopened and his waiver was accepted.
On March 24, 2016, Angelo arrived at JFK Airport in New York with a stamped work visa. His lawyers and friends waited to greet him. His story set a precedent in the immigration community. It was the rare case of an aged-out Dreamer who returned to Mexico and received an immigration waiver to work legally in the United States. For a short time, his dream came true.
Unfortunately Angelo’s time in the United States, may have expiration date. His immigration visa waiver will soon expire and his current job can only offer him the possibility of working for a few months. His future is very uncertain especially with the new president elected Donald Trump and the new immigration policies that he announced during his campaign, like the cancelation of all the H1B-Visas.
“It's hard to even sleep not knowing what my future will be, after January 20, 2017. Although until now it has being one of my most rewarding living experiences, being able to return home, NYC, reconnect with my friends, reconnect with my various community projects, but most important to reconnect with my students. All I wish is to continue with my altruistic work and support all communities in NYC”