The opportunity to participate in the Olympics is one few athletes ever get to. One runner from the Bay Area has qualified to compete. but his citizenship status has put a trip to Tokyo in limbo.
At the NCAA track and field championships earlier this summer, Luis Grijalva came in second in the men's 5000 meter race but he was fast enough to qualify for his birth country of Guatemala’s track and field Olympic team.
It was exciting news for Grijalva. But just as soon as he crossed the finish line, he realized as a dreamer, getting to Tokyo will be complicated.
“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 said.
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Grijalva has been running since before he was a student at Armijo High School in Fairfield.
Grijalva was born in Guatemala and is a DACA recipient. He cannot run for the United States because he's not a citizen or legal permanent resident.
Instead, Guatemala has invited him to run for them.
Grijalva, a student at Northern Arizona University, his coach and fellow runners there will be leaving to Tokyo Sunday.
“He's been an excellent student, he's been a top athlete and a wonderful teammate,” said Mike Smith, running coach at Northern Arizona University. “And now, he's got a chance to represent us and his country at the highest levels of competition. So, he's an easy guy to root for.”
Grijalva and his attorney are headed to Phoenix Monday.
He needs a special permit to leave the United States and return, which normally takes about 90 days.
They plan on pressing the U.S. government to speed up the processing for that permit.
“We tried to go through the process as soon as reasonably possible. However, this is a very exceptional case and exceptional circumstance,” said Jessica Smith Bobadilla, an immigration attorney
For Grijalva, it's a nerve-racking process.
“It's still unknown as of now. And I probably won't find out until a day before my flight that I have to leave to Tokyo," he said.
Grijalva has to fly to Tokyo by this coming Wednesday in order to compete.