Utah woman allowed back home after being stuck in Mexico for several months

Feb 3, 2024, 10:14 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2024, 9:01 am

SALT LAKE CITY — As many travelers were arriving at the Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday night, one traveler was top of mind.

Family and friends of Maleny Heiners filled the international arrivals exit waiting anxiously for her to walk through.

For more than six months, the Brigham Young University graduate and master’s student at the University of Utah has been living in Mexico.

Clerical error has BYU grad stuck in Mexico


Maleny Heiners was raised in the United States, but not born here. She’s a DACA recipient.

“There’s a lot of restrictions that they have when they live in the United States,” said Taylor Heiners, Maleny’s husband. “They can’t get loans, they can’t go out of the country, and they also have to renew their DACA (status) every two years.”

Last summer, the Heiners flew to Mexico for a round of appointments to finalize Maleny’s residency and received her green card.

“We were planning fun trips that we were going to go on,” Taylor Heiners said.

They were assured everything was OK

Her immigration attorney assured them everything was squared away only to realize that wasn’t the case.

Maleny Heiners needed a specific waiver that takes several years to be processed.

“We went to the border expecting the best,” Taylor Heiners said. “She got through the last appointment and then she found the person literally looked at her case and said, ‘You’ve had four months of unlawful presence in the United States and unfortunately, I can’t help you.'”

She was forced to stay in her native country. She lost her job as a social worker and dropped out of school.

During her time in Mexico, she was able to find family in Zacatecas, Mexico.

Last Tuesday, Maleny Heiners learned she was approved for a temporary visa called Humanitarian Parole.

Taylor Heiners is battling a chronic illness, and another close family member is battling cancer. The visa allows her to take care of her family members but only allows her to stay in the country for one year.

“I can’t believe I’m home,” Maleny Heiners said.

As she made her way through international arrivals, cheers made by friends and family filled the airport. She was reunited with loved ones, specifically her husband after months of being separated.

“I didn’t think it would happen for a long time. I’m really happy that I’m here,” she said.

While she still does not have her green card, friends and family are just happy to have her home.

Maleny Heiners said she’s grateful for the support she’s received especially from the group Utah With All Immigrants. She’s looking forward to spending time with her family and her husband. She said she would be working with her immigration attorney to try again with her green card application as quickly as possible.

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Utah woman allowed back home after being stuck in Mexico for several months