The deportation of a Durham twenty-three-year-old detained by immigration officials nearly two months ago has been delayed another week.
Wendy Miranda Fernandez was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 22 when she appeared before ICE seeking a stay of a previously issueId order of removal from the country. She is being held at LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, Louisiana. Miranda Fernandez’s advocates say she was taken to an airport early Thursday morning only to be returned to LaSalle.
The news of the delay came this afternoon after North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield again reached out to ICE officials asking that Miranda Fernandez not be removed from the country while she has a pending asylum application before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Butterfield wrote to Sean Gallagher, field director for ICE’s Atlanta office on May 4.
“Moments ago, our office received notice from ICE that Wendy’s removal has been delayed another week in order to allow the BIA more time to consider her motion to reopen,” a spokesperson for Butterfield said in an email just before four p.m. today.
Miranda Fernandez’s family and supporters had feared she would be deported overnight. Her fiancé, Robert Paulino, contacted Alerta Migratoria Wednesday to say Miranda Fernandez was being taken to an airport and would be deported at one a.m.
Also on Thursday afternoon, Miranda Fernandez, a Riverside High School graduate, was able to call her lawyer at Guirguis Law “for the first time since maybe the day we were hired,” said paralegal Cynthia Martinez. Martinez said a request for an emergency stay of Miranda Fernandez’s removal was denied, but a motion to reopen her case and apply for asylum in the U.S. was still pending Thursday afternoon. Guirguis Law took on the case in late April after learning of Miranda Fernandez’s situation.
Detainees at LaSalle Detention Center cannot directly receive calls, but callers can leave messages. The firm had been leaving messages for Miranda Fernandez since she was moved there from Irwin County Detention Center on May 4, but the calls weren’t going through, she said. Martinez said it could have been an error by the law firm but “we don’t have that issue anywhere else.”
“It’s a little too convenient in my opinion,” she said.
According to Martinez, Miranda Fernandez has also had difficulty making arrangements to marry Paulino, who is a U.S. citizen. Martinez said she had the paperwork with her when she was detained and has been unable to get it to Paulino. Miranda Fernandez’s commissary account was closed on Wednesday, Martinez said, which is typical before a detainee is deported.
Martinez said other immigration clients Guirguis Law has worked with have also been taken to the airport or told to pack up and get ready for deportation. “Can you imagine how much psychological damage they’re doing?” she said.
Miranda Fernadez fled gang violence in El Salvador at age fourteen after witnessing a murder in front of her home. She was detained by immigration officials but allowed to enter the country as an unaccompanied minor and apply for asylum. That application was denied by an immigration judge and in August 2016 she was issued a final order of removal. She received several stays of that order, according to ICE.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took unlawfully present Salvadoran national Wendy Miranda into custody March 22 in Charlotte, N.C., after she received all appropriate process before the federal immigration courts. Ms. Miranda is subject to a final order of removal issued in August 2016. She subsequently filed a request for stay of removal, which was denied March 10,” Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesperson, said in an emailed statement earlier this month.
Advocates say Miranda Fernandez “faces certain death” if she returns to El Salvador. The country has been called the deadliest outside of a war zone. According to El Salvador’s Institute of Legal Medicine, there were 6,656 homicides in the country of 6.1 million people in 2015.