Since getting engaged a year ago, Wendy Miranda-Fernandez, twenty-three, had been planning a wedding with her boyfriend of more than four years. But instead of getting married, she is in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and could be deported tomorrow.
Miranda-Fernandez came to the United States from Barrio el Calvario, El Salvador, in 2008 when she was fourteen years old. She was fleeing gang violence when she was stopped at the border by immigration officials.
Law and immigrant advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC are hoping that drawing attention to the case will halt her deportation.
"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," Alerta Migratoria wrote in a press release today. "Her brother and entire family fear the bloodiest of retributions resulting from his insubordination and unwillingness to take arms with the Mara Salvatrucha. The United Nation’s Homicide Reports show El Salvador has become the world’s most violent country outside a war zone. Under these circumstances, Wendy faces certain death if deported tomorrow."
The law firm has been rushing to act on Miranda-Fernandez's case since taking it on a week ago. Attorney Nardine Guirguis says she just received her client's immigration file yesterday and is navigating conflicting and missing information.
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox says Miranda-Fernandez was issued a final removal order in August 2016 after a judge "found she was not eligible for any type of immigration relief." The Board of Immigration Appeals denied her asylum application in June 2014.
Miranda-Fernandez was previously granted a stay of removal from the country. Guirguis says she was detained when she went before immigration officials to seeking an extension of the stay on March 22. While Guirguis says that stay had not expired, Cox said her most recent stay had lapsed.
"ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security," Cox said in a statement. "However, as Secretary 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 had been at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia since March 27, says Cynthia Martinez, a paralegal at Guirguis Law. According to ICE's detainee locator, she has been transferred to LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana.
Guirguis said Miranda-Fernandez has no criminal record.
"This young lady is a quintessential shining star," Guirguis said. "There is no blemish in her background except for the fact that she unfortunately came from El Salvador and could face death if she goes back."
According to Guirguis, there was some confusion among guards at Irwin and ICE officials as to whether Miranda-Fernandez needed to authorization to get married in custody. She and her fiancé, who is a U.S. citizen, got engaged last April and planned to get married before she was detained in March.
"He went to Georgia to marry her and it was almost as if he was left at the alter because they up and moved her from Irwin," Guirguis said.
Guirguis has filed a motion to reopen the case, along with an asylum application and a request for another stay of removal, but it's unknown when they will hear back.
There is no guarantee that those pending items, or Miranda-Fernandez getting married, will prevent her deportation.
"We’re hoping they realize this isn’t somebody they can just deport and no one is going to notice," Martinez said.
Alerta Migratoria called on Durham officials, Congressman G.K. Butterfield and Senator Richard Burr to step in. This afternoon, Butterfield wrote to the field director of ICE's Atlanta office asking that an emergency stay be considered.
"I believe her removal prior to the considered of these filings would constitute a great injustice and urge you to allow her to exhaust all legal options," he wrote.