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DACA Recipient Luis Grijalva Allowed to go to Olympics to Represent Home Country

Luis Grijalva finished second in the men's 5,000-meter final at the NCAA track and field championships earlier this summer, and did well enough to realize a dream of his and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with a personal best of 13:13.14. Only it wasn't for the U.S., but his home country of Guatemala. 

And after receiving his advanced reentry document on Monday, he's going to be allowed to leave the country in pursuit of his dreams, his agent announced.

Grijalva, a student at Northern Arizona University, came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was just 1 year old, and has lived here ever since but is not a citizen or legal permanent resident. He's a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, which complicates his Olympic eligibility. 

Being a DACA recipient, Grijalva needs a special permit to leave the country and return—which presented a problem in traveling to Tokyo.

“If I don't get the permit in time, and if I do go to the Games then technically, I'll be self-deporting, which I won't go If I don't get the permit,” he told NBC Bay Area on Saturday.

Guatemala's coaches and runners traveled to Tokyo on Sunday. Grijalva and his attorney prepared for a visit to Phoenix on Monday, where he hoped to speed up the process for a permit, which usually takes 90 days. He needed the permit by Wednesday in order to compete and travel to Japan. 

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And sure enough, he got it. 

Grijalva shared a heartfelt Instagram post Sunday and shared his story before receiving his advanced reentry document. 

"I came to [the United States] as a year old, I have lived in the U.S. for more than 21 years," Grijalva wrote. "All my life all I have known is the United States. Even though my roots started in Guatemala in some ways I feel as American as anybody else who was born here."

"It would be an honor and a privilege to represent my home country but also be able to be a voice and represent over 600,000 Dreamers like me. Tomorrow morning I will be marching down the USCIS office in Phoenix to make one last effort in gaining an advance parole that allows me to leave the country and be able to return safely. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this process your messages and kind words mean so much to me."

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