They may not be able to return to the only country they really know, the one in which they came of age.
But to three immigrant activists who were brought to the United States illegally as children, the high-stakes move is one they must make to draw attention to immigration laws they feel make no sense.
The immigrants are traveling to Mexico and trying to come back into the United States.
Under U.S. law, all three are in the country illegally even though they grew up in America. The three, members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, want to draw attention to the law and the huge jump in deportations carried out under the Obama administration, and to reaffirm their attachment to the country where they were raised.
"I know you're going to think that I'm crazy for doing this, for leaving the U.S., for coming to Mexico but, to be honest, I think it is crazier that I had to wait 15 years to see my family," Lizbeth Mateo, one of the activists, said in a video posted on the Alliance's Facebook page.
Mateo traveled to Oaxaca a week ago, while the two other activists — one who has applied for a government program that lets young immigrants live in the U.S. on renewable two-year stays — went to Mexico on Wednesday, said Domenic Powell, one of the Alliance's founders.
Powell declined to provide details on the three, or on how or where they will attempt to re-enter the country, other than to say it will occur Monday. He said the organization doesn't want to divulge information because it wants to see how agents from Customs and Border Protection react when they encounter the three.
"We want them to act in a way as they normally would, as they always do," he said.
The activists plan to meet with others who were deported to Mexico or left on their own and will try to return to the U.S. with them, Powell said.
Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Deportations have exploded in recent years, topping 400,000 in 2012, more than double the number seven years earlier. U.S. lawmakers are debating an overhaul to the country's immigration system that could include a fix for immigrants who were brought in illegally as children. Many have grown up in America and have no recollection of life in another country, but they have no legal status in the U.S.
"Whether immigration reform happens or not, they should be here in the U.S. because they live here and this is their home," said Powell, whose group in the past has organized sit-ins in politicians' offices over the administration's immigration policies.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.