Durham County

Riverside High grad set to be deported to El Salvador Friday

Wendy Noemi Miranda-Fernandez, right, is a Durham resident originally from El Salvador. She is fighting deportation scheduled for Friday, May 5.
Wendy Noemi Miranda-Fernandez, right, is a Durham resident originally from El Salvador. She is fighting deportation scheduled for Friday, May 5.

Riverside High School graduate Wendy Noemi Miranda-Fernandez is scheduled to be deported back to her native El Salvador Friday, May 5.

The organization Alerta Migratoria NC on Thursday called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop the deportation.

In an emailed statement, Alerta Migratoria said: “Alerta Migratoria NC calls on leaders of the city of Durham, Congressman GK Butterfield, and Senator Richard Burr to intervene on Wendy’s behalf. To allow the removal of Wendy at this time would be a serious violation of human rights.”

Viridiana Martinez of Alerta Migratoria said Miranda-Fernandez fled El Salvador in 2008 at the age of 14 and turned herself in at the U.S. border and applied for asylum.

“Wendy Miranda came to the United States after she witnessed a murder right outside her home in El Salvador due to her brother’s refusal to join the Mara Salvatrucha [MS-13],” Martinez said in a news release. “Her brother and entire family fear the bloodiest of retributions resulting from his insubordination and unwillingness to take arms with the Mara Salvatrucha.”

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning to Americans on Feb. 14, 2017 to strongly consider the risks involved in traveling to El Salvador due to the high rates of crime and violence there.

“Gang activity is widespread in El Salvador,” the travel warning stated. “There are thousands of gang members operating in the country, including members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M-18). Gangs (maras) focus on extortion, violent street crime, narcotics and arms trafficking.”

Martinez said that because Miranda-Fernandez was an unaccompanied minor when she turned herself at the U.S. border, she was allowed to enter the U.S.

Immigration attorney Nardine Mary Guirguis took on Miranda-Fernandez's case last week after becoming aware of her situation.

A federal Board of Immigration Appeals denied Miranda-Fernandez permanent asylum on June 16, 2014, apparently rejecting Miranda-Fernandez’s argument that she would be killed my members of MS-13 in retribution for her brother’s refusal to join the gang.

Her brother did not flee El Salvador, remaining there — and alive — today.

“The interesting thing is, that I know why she did in fact come to the United States,” Guirguis said. “There is information that we obtained recently, that we subsequently corroborated prior to accepting the case, which substantiated the material, recent change in circumstances which support the conclusion that if she were removed from the country she would face imminent persecution, if not death.”

Since her federal court date on June 16, 2014, Miranda-Fernandez has been granted three stays of removal — in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — and was required to regularly check in with ICE while she remained in the U.S.

At her last check-in on March 22 she was detained and then moved to Irwin County Detention Facility in Georgia to await deportation.

Bryan Cox, Southern Region Communications Director for ICE released the following statement Thursday: “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.

“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, as (Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly) has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt entire classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Miranda-Fernandez has been engaged to Robert Paulino, an American citizen, since April 2016, according to Guirguis.

The couple wanted to get married while Miranda-Fernandez was in the detention facility but complications arose first with the detention guards misunderstanding marriage laws and subsequent regulations and later with Miranda-Fernandez being moved to a different detention destination before she was able to complete the required paperwork for her to get married, Guiguis said.

The attorney said she spent Thursday morning in court on Miranda-Fernandez's behalf, trying to obtain a further stay of deportation.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Durham, said in an emailed statement: “After learning of Ms. Wendy Miranda’s case, my senior staff and I began working with ICE officials on her behalf. Ms. Miranda is not a dangerous criminal and fears for her life if she is returned to her home country of El Salvador ... My staff in Durham met with Ms. Miranda’s family and I have sent a letter to ICE requesting that they delay her removal proceedings until her filings before the Charlotte Immigration Court can be considered. I will continue to monitor Ms. Miranda’s case, and I urge ICE to delay her removal in order to give her an opportunity to exhaust all legal options.”

Guirguis said, “Pray for her.”

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

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