Amid fears that a Riverside High School graduate would be deported overnight, the law firm representing Wendy Miranda Fernandez says it has not been able to reach her.
Miranda Fernandez, who fled violence in El Salvador at age fourteen, was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 22. Since then, she has been held at various detention facilities, including in Georgia and Louisiana. While ICE's detainee locator says Miranda Fernandez is being held at LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, staff members at Guirguis Law say they cannot reach her there. Before she was taken into custody, the twenty-three-year-old had been planning to marry her fiancé, a U.S. citizen.
Detainees cannot directly receive phone calls at LaSalle, but lawyers can leave messages for them that are supposed to be passed on to detainees.
Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for ICE, said that, as of twelve-thirty this afternoon, Miranda Fernandez had not been removed from the country and was still in ICE custody. But staff members at LaSalle say Miranda Fernandez is no longer at their facility, according to a paralegal at Guirguis Law.
The law firm is calling other detention facilities trying to locate Miranda Fernandez. Advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC is asking supporters to call ICE and demand a halt to her deportation. The group sent out alerts Wednesday night saying that Miranda Fernandez was scheduled to deported at one a.m.
Miranda Fernandez left El Salvador after witnessing a murder that supporters say was retribution for her brother refusing to join the MS-13 gang. She sought permanent asylum in the U.S., but her application was denied.
In February, the U.S. State Department renewed its advisory cautioning U.S. citizens against traveling to El Salvador "due to the high rates of crime and violence" and "widespread" gang activity.
"If deported, Wendy faces certain death in El Salvador," Alerta Migratoria said in a statement. "El Salvador has been designated by the United Nations to be the world’s most violent country outside of a war zone."
Her lawyer has filed a motion to reopen her case, including a new asylum application, and a request for an emergency stay of her removal from the country. Those applications were still pending on Thursday.