Frankfort student receives visa, returns for graduation
By Sandra Chapman, WTHR investigative reporter - bio | email
Elizabeth Olivas gets a hug from her father Friday morning.
FRANKFORT, Ind. -
A Frankfort High School senior stuck in Mexico for the last six weeks arrived home early Friday morning, after the U.S. State Department issued her a visa.
"I feel awesome," Olivas said when greeting by family, friends and media Indianapolis International Airport shortly after Midnight.
Elizabeth Olivas was trying to follow immigration law when she went back to her birthplace in Mexico to apply for the visa, 180 days before her 18th birthday. But a miscalculation put her in Mexico one day too late.
But with help from Senator Richard Lugar's office, she returned to Indiana just days before graduation.
"Knowing I had people supporting me rally helped a lot," she said. Family in Frankfort, and in Mexico, helped her return.
For six weeks, Elizabeth had been stuck in Mexico, and facing the real possibility of missing her high school graduation in Frankfort. A miscalculation by one day caused Elizabeth to return to her birthplace in Mexico late, according to immigration law.
Just before three o'clock Thursday afternoon, the message came from the U.S. State Department.
Thursday morning, Elizabeth missed Frankfort's mandatory graduation rehearsal, where her teammate Danyelle and childhood friends Alexis, Angelica, and Jessica all gathered, still in disbelief that an immigration technicality could keep Elizabeth from the home she's known since she was four years old.
"I didn't know things like this could happen," admitted Danyelle Coomer.
"I think it's crazy," added Jessica Mendoza.
Alexis Reddington agreed.
"She should be able to graduate with her class. She put in all the effort. She's second in her class and she deserves it," said Reddington, making reference to the speech Elizabeth was supposed to deliver.
State Department Spokesman Mark Toner hinted that the U.S. Government might take up Elizabeth's plight, after her attorney contacted Senator Lugar's office.
"I know one of the things under discussion is a waiver of ineligibility, or what's called 'humanitarian parole.' That's a decision for the Department of Homeland Security," Toner told reporters during a state department briefing.
In a phone interview, Elizabeth told CNN she was staying with her grandparents and keeping up on her school assignments over the Internet.
"I brought my laptop with me and that's helped me getting to the school website and doing all of my homework and I also brought a journal and another book that I had to do, because I knew what I had to take, because I talked to my teachers before I left, so I've been doing everything online," Elizabeth explained.
"We really want her back for graduation," added Angelica Lopez.
Now, Elizabeth is ready to graduate with her class at 10 a.m. Saturday in Frankfort.