In the wake of the hurricanes that have brought massive flooding to parts of Texas, Indiana, Florida and many islands in the Caribbean, many foreign nationals in the US planning foreign travel (or those outside the US planning on coming back) have passports and visas that have been water damaged. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you should replace such documents before attempting to enter the US. The primary reason for this is that the ink that is used in the documents does not hold up to water, and if the damage is apparent by looking at the document, there is a high likelihood that the visa/ passport will not be machine readable. People who seek reentry to the United States by air will not be permitted to board an airplane if their passports cannot be scanned. There is very little room for discretion for those entering by air, as the airlines will likely deny boarding before CBP (Customs and Border Protection) ever sees the applicant.
Those who seek reentry by land may receive greater favorable discretion, as they may be granted a waiver of the required entry document (on Form I-193, pursuant to INA 212(d)(4)). Such waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the port, and there is no guarantee that it will be done in any particular case. In cases that merit favorable discretion (e.g., emergency travel due to hardship), you should call your attorney as soon as you can so that they can facilitate your return at a border port of entry by contacting them and explaining why you warrant a favorable exercise of discretion. While ports will never pre-adjudicate admissibility, your entry may be facilitated by having your attorney make this type of inquiry in advance. The I-193 waives only the lack of a travel document and does not waive any other grounds of inadmissibility which would require a waiver under INA 212(d)(3).
Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.