As school starts again, a 15-year-old girl from Maypearl is still stuck in Mexico after spending most of her life in Texas.
The North Texas girl's immigration status is still in limbo. For now, she has to stay in Mexico while her family lives here. The process to let the girl legally re-enter the U.S. has already taken months, and there is no true end in sight.
Maypearl High School starts back in two weeks, but 15-year-old Esmeralda Segura won't be there. She's in Mexico and can't come home.
As a Mexican national who has lived in the U.S. since she was 3 years old, Esmeralda traveled with her mother across the border last November to get a green card. She was denied.
Sylvia Whala says when she goes to see her daughter she pleads with her to take her back. The mother says it hurts her that she doesn’t have the power to bring her daughter back.
“Having to drive away from me breaks my heart every time,” Esmeralda said over the phone. “I don't want to go through that anymore."
Esmeralda’s father died when she was child. Her mother remarried with an American. Sylvia also has an 11-year-old son who was born in the U.S. She, herself, already has a green card. She says immigration officials told her getting a green card for her daughter would mean taking her to Mexico for a hearing. She's still not clear why her daughter was refused. The girl’s absence is not just felt by the family.
"She's a good student, a good example to others, a role model,” said Leslie Pantoja, Esmeralda’s fifth grade teacher. “People would benefit from having her here, and she's not here."
Esmeralda lives with her grandparents in Mexico and goes to school there. Sylvia says her daughter will have another opportunity at an immigration hearing in November nearly one year after this ordeal started.
Sylvia works for the Maypearl School District where Esmeralda has been in school since kindergarten. She says it gets harder every day.
Despite her desperation to be back with her family, Esmeralda is glad her mother is trying to make things right.
"I want to do things right. The right way,” Esmeralda said “Hopefully, I can go back and won't have to be in the shadows anymore."