UTAH

Clerical error has BYU grad stuck in Mexico

Dec 18, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:25 pm

Maleny Heiner, BYU graduate, has been stuck in Mexico since August due to a clerical error made by ...

Maleny Heiner, BYU graduate, has been stuck in Mexico since August due to a clerical error made by her attorney and has no idea when she will be able to return (Maleny Heiner).

(Maleny Heiner)

SALT LAKE CITY — The road to United States citizenship is no simple task, even if you do everything correctly.

Maleny Heiner has been stuck in Mexico since August due to a clerical error made by her attorney and has no idea when she will be able to return, but let’s back up to the beginning.

Maleny’s Story

Heiner came to the US with her parents from Mexico when she was 2 years old and moved to Utah for school at 18.

At the same time, she applied for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so she could legally live in the United States while she went to school and worked.

She came to Utah to attend BYU and later served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Houston, Texas.

This is where she met her husband Taylor Heiner.

She and Taylor were married in 2018 and have been living in Saratoga Springs as they diligently work together on Maleny’s arduous process to gain citizenship.

The Process Itself and What Went Wrong

The process is so complicated that it usually requires the assistance of an immigration attorney to make sure every step is airtight and done promptly.

They began their efforts to first gain residency, the precursor to citizenship, four years ago, but “it was delayed because of COVID and other factors, like political factors, that intervene with that process”, according to Heiner.

Finally, in June of this year, they received the exciting news that the final step for her to gain her long-awaited residency was underway.

“We were really excited because that was the final step for me being able to gain my legal status in the United States, especially as a resident,” she said.

Undocumented citizens are required to return to their native country for a round of appointments which ends in the application being processed.

“My husband and I triple-checked everything with my attorney to make sure we were set to go. Everything looked good, and in August we flew out.”

At her final appointment, Heiner discovered that she “was inadmissible due to unlawful presence in the United States.”

Undocumented adults are allowed a maximum of 180 days of unlawful presence after they turn 18, and Heiner had accumulated about three months of unlawful presence while she decided whether or not to apply for DACA.

“I wanted to see how the process went for everyone else before I applied,” she explained. 

For Heiner, who was very meticulous about doing everything correctly, the math didn’t add up.

“I was really confused”, so she asked where the extra time of unlawful presence came from.

“It turns out that on one of my previous DACA renewals during the pandemic, there was a delay in processing times, she said.

This means she was accumulating unlawful presence while the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services processed her renewal.

There is a waiver that prevents issues like this from ever happening, called the I601 waiver.

It would “basically forgive all that unlawful presence”, but her lawyer failed to file it.

A friend of Maleny and Business Immigration Paralegal Liliana Bolaños compared not filing the waiver to “going to the mechanic and driving off the lot without tires. It’s a very serious mistake.”

“I got out of the appointment in tears because I didn’t expect that to happen, I had done everything in my power to make sure I could return home.”

Heiner immediately contacted her attorney and the waiver was filed right away, but the real kicker is it takes up to 2 1/2 years to process.

The Struggle to Return Home

There is not much the Heiners can do themselves except wait.

Maleny is living in Zacatecas, Mexico with some family and is very grateful for their support as she adapts to a new country and culture.

While the Heiners wait for the I601 waiver to be processed, members of her community are trying to help get USCIS’s attention.

Burgess Owens, a U.S. congressman, tried to file an expedited request with USCIS but was denied.

Getting the attention of people with connections, like Owens, is the hope of Heiner.

Taylor Heiner suffers from a chronic illness in his stomach and being separated from him is extremely difficult for Maleny.

“We are working on filing a humanitarian parole now based on my husband’s health challenges,” she said.”We’ve had so many experiences where I have had to rush him to the emergency room.”

Being away from loved ones is always challenging, but especially during the holidays, in a foreign country, with no way of knowing when you’ll return.

“I’ve missed out on Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and now I will miss out on Christmas. I miss being with my family. I miss being with my husband.”

She was also in the middle of getting a Master’s degree in Social Work but has had to put that on hold.

Furthermore, she lost her job and is unable to work.

Heiner acknowledges that she is not the only one in this situation, and has worked especially hard to prevent something like this from happening.

“It’s frustrating because I am stuck in this situation after I did everything to make sure I was prepared.”

A GoFundMe has been created on Maleny’s behalf by the Utah With All Immigrants advocacy group to help cover any expenses accrued while she lives in Mexico unable to work. You can donate here.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah

A woman found unresponsive by police in Box Elder Creek was pronounced dead at a hospital on Tuesda...

Simone Seikaly

Woman found unresponsive in Box Elder Creek pronounced dead

Brigham City police were investigating a possible missing person when they said they found a body in Box Elder Creek

8 hours ago

FILE: Spectators watch as the Artemis I uncrewed lunar rocket lifts off at NASA's Kennedy Space Cen...

Don Brinkerhoff

Utah company completes solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Artemis

Northrup Grumman says the Arrtemis rocket boosters can carry nearly five metric tons more than the previous boosters. 

9 hours ago

The new West Davis Highway in Davis County on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. The new 16-mile, four-lane divi...

Tim Vandenack

West Davis Highway gets high marks after 7 weeks; noise still an issue for some

The new 16-mile corridor is a divided, four-lane, limited-access roadway meant in part to ease congestion along I-15.

10 hours ago

FILE: Vietnam War veterans gather for a photograph following a ceremony to recognize and honor Viet...

Eric Cabrera

Veterans can soon sign up for the largest-ever expansion of VA health benefits

On March 5, vets who served in a combat zone, beginning with the Vietnam war, can directly enroll in VA healthcare.

11 hours ago

Utah's avalanche danger has been dangerous for the last week, with the Utah Avalanche Center report...

MICHAEL HOUCK, KSL-TV

Skier severely injured following avalanche near Little Water Peak

A skier was injured after being caught in an avalanche on Monday Feb. 26. The skier was hoisted to safety.

17 hours ago

Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Clerical error has BYU grad stuck in Mexico