RACE, RELIGION + SOCIAL JUSTICE

Utah local reunited with family after six months stuck in Mexico

Feb 4, 2024, 8:25 AM | Updated: Feb 5, 2024, 11:39 am

Maleny Heiner standing next to her husband with family and friends in the background while being in...

Maleny Heiner, who was held in Mexico since August, standing next to her husband with family and friends in the background while being interviewed by KSL TV. (Olivia Calvert, KSL NewsRadio)

(Olivia Calvert, KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Friends and family anxiously crowded the International Arrivals gate at Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday night, stirring passersby to wonder who was so special to warrant such a welcome.

This group had only been waiting for a couple of hours at the airport. But the wait leading up to this moment at the airport was a far longer and more stressful one.

Maleny Heiner is a Utah local who was on the path to United States citizenship when she was abruptly held in Mexico, her place of birth, indefinitely.

This unexpected turn took her from Taylor, her husband of five years, whose chronic illness made it exceptionally distressing for her to be away.

Heiner has been in Mexico since August, working furiously to find a way home.

But Heiner was not alone in this quest.

Alongside friends, family, and lawyers, immigration reform groups such as FWD.us and social media platforms, Utah for All Immigrants and the Black Menaces helped garner the attention of those in positions to help.

Rep. Burgess Owens and Sen. Mitt Romney were also involved in the process.

A humanitarian parole visa was finally granted to Heiner and she was able to come home.

The visa gives Heiner one year to work on her next steps toward residency and citizenship.

Visa in hand, but anxiety remained

Heiner’s anxieties about further derailments did not end until she walked out of the airport with her loved ones.

Cheers filled the otherwise quiet airport as she finally walked through the doors and into the arms of her husband.

“I am still anxious. Like we need to go before they change their minds,” Heiner laughed.

“I feel like it hasn’t been a reality for me to be home for so long that I was afraid that anything would prevent me from coming back.”

Heiner’s advice to other immigrants seeking permanent residency in the United States is to stay informed, and double-check all options because “little mistakes can happen and really have a big impact.”

Related: Clerical error has BYU grad stuck in Mexico

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Utah local reunited with family after six months stuck in Mexico