Durham County

Deportation of Riverside High grad Wendy Miranda Fernandez delayed

Wendy Miranda Fernandez, right, is shown in a submitted photo.
Wendy Miranda Fernandez, right, is shown in a submitted photo.

Wendy Miranda Fernandez, a Riverside High School graduate who has been fighting deportation to her native El Salvador, will not be deported for at least a week.

Meaghan Lynch, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said Butterflied had learned late Wednesday that Fernandez’s removal had been scheduled and was imminent.

Alerta Migratoria NC, an activist group associated with Fernandez, reported shortly before midnight Wednesday, May 17 that Fernandez would be deported at 1 a.m. Thursday, May 18.

“We then reached out to ICE officials to convey Rep. Butterfield’s request that Wendy not be removed from the country while she has a pending motion before the BIA,” Lynch said, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, Butterfield’s office received notice from ICE that the deportation of Fernandez had been delayed for at least another week to allow the BIA time to consider her motion to reopen her case.

Alerta Migratoria NC said in an emailed statement at 11:39 p.m. Wednesday that Fernandez had told them she was scheduled for deportation to El Salvador in less than two hours.

Fernandez has a pending Motion to Reopen and an asylum application that had stopped an earlier deportation order, but said Immigration and Customs Enforcement would deport her at 1 a.m. Thursday.

She has been in ICE custody in Georgia and the ICE Online Detainee Locator System currently lists Fernandez as “In Custody” and being held in the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana.

Fernandez has said that she is planning to marry her fiancé Robert Paulino, an American citizen, which would apparently void her deportation but that wedding has not happened.

Paulino said Thursday, that he’d spoken with Fernandez earlier in the day and was told that at approximately 1 a.m. Thursday, ICE personnel had taken her to an airport “to be deported.” Paulino said the drive to the airport was said to have lasted “about an hour.”

After reaching the airport, Paulino said ICE officers did not place her on a plane but instead drove her back to the LaSalle Detention Facility.

Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, released numbers stating that immigration arrests have increased by 37.6 percent in the early part of 2017 when compared to the same time period last year.

“Between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) deportation officers administratively arrested 41,318 individuals on civil immigration charges,” ICE reported, the dates coming at the start of President Donald Trump’s administration. “Between Jan. 24 and April 30, 2016, ERO arrested 30,028.”

The 2016 numbers were recorded during the final year of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Nardine Guirguis, an attorney representing Fernandez, said Fernandez, has never been convicted of a felony.

Of the 41,318 individuals arrested by ICE in the Jan. 22-April 29, 2017 time frame, almost 11,000 did not have a prior criminal conviction. That’s more than double the number of immigrants without criminal convictions arrested in 2016 during a comparable time period.

Fernandez entered the U.S. at age 14 and sought asylum claiming she feared for her safety in El Salvador after witnessing a murder outside her home by the international gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. She said the attack occurred after her older brother refused to join the gang.

Her brother was not injured in the shooting.

Her asylum request was rejected, leading to her current situation.

Alerta Migratoria NC claims Fernandez, if deported, “.... faces certain death in El Salvador.”

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