Her family fled Pinochet’s Chile. She could be sent back, despite green card, after drug addiction and theft convictions.

Alejandra Cano walked into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Chicago Thursday morning uncertain if she would walk back out.

Cano, who arrived in the U.S. as a toddler after her family in the 1970s fled the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, is a legal U.S. resident, but she faces the possibility of detention and deportation because of theft-related criminal convictions in Cook and Lake counties, according to her attorney.

Surrounded by family and friends, Cano, 45, said she feared she would be placed in deportation proceedings when she walked into the federal agency’s Loop office. She admits she committed crimes, but she said it was part of a turbulent period in her life when she struggled with drug addiction. She hasn’t used drugs for five years, she said.

“We are here to say that everyone deserves a second chance, including me,” Cano said before going inside CBP offices for her appointment.

Four hours later, Cano emerged from the federal building feeling victorious because she wasn’t detained, though she was told to return Dec. 19. Immigration advocates along with her supporters stood outside the CBP office for hours, sometimes dancing to cumbia music to stay warm. She told supporters that having them there made her feel like she wasn’t alone.

Cano’s immigration troubles started Aug. 27, when she arrived at O’Hare International Airport after visiting family in Chile, according to her attorney and a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Cano said it was the first time she had traveled outside of the country in about 20 years.

She was stopped during the border inspection and told to report to the agency’s Chicago offices, according to the federal agency. On Thursday, the inspection was still not complete because the agency wants to review additional documents related to Cano’s criminal history. That means her future in the Chicago area will remain in limbo.

By ELVIA MALAGÓN for CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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