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Deportation of Salvadoran bride-to-be under review

Wendy Miranda was due to be married last week, but was scheduled for deportation instead. She originally came to the United States in 2008 after witnessing a gang murder in El Salvador. Her life is in serious danger if she returns to El Salvador, her lawyer says.
9 May 2017 – 04:33 PM EDT
Wendy and Roberto Paulino Crédito: Courtesy of the Paulino family.

A woman who was due to be deported on her wedding day to El Salvador has won a review of her immigration status, according to the office of a congressman who intervened on her behalf.

Four days after her wedding plans were dashed, Wendy Miranda remains in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Louisiana, according to ICE’s online Detainee Locator. Miranda’s lawyer says she has not been able to talk to her client for nearly two weeks, despite repeated efforts.

ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd confirmed that Miranda remains in custody, but declined to elaborate on her status, saying, “It is ICE policy to not discuss upcoming operations.”

However, a spokeswoman for the office of North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who intervened on Miranda’s behalf, told Univision that “ICE officials told our office that Ms. Miranda’s removal has been delayed to allow her filings to be reviewed by EOIR (The Executive Office for Immigration Review)."

Miranda and her fiancé, Robert Paulino, have still not been allowed to get married.

Robert Paulino received a phone call last Thursday, several hours before he was scheduled to get married.

The unknown female voice on the other end of the line identified herself as a friend and cellmate of his fiancé, Wendy Miranda, who until Thursday was being held at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.

The woman gave Paulino, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen, the bad news: ICE agents had taken his bride from her cell at 3 a.m. and whisked her off to parts unknown to await deportation to El Salvador.

Miranda originally came to the United States in 2008 after witnessing a gang murder in her neighborhood. She filed an asylum request and went to live with her mother in Durham, North Carolina, where she met Paulino in high school.

Miranda's asylum request was eventually denied in August 2016, and she was issued a deportation order. She continued to fight removal by filing a series of stays, but was taken into custody March 22.

Paulino is growing increasingly despondent about the woman he's been dating for the past six years.

"I can't eat. I can't sleep. I get sick just thinking about it," the grieving groom told Univision during a tearful phone interview from Atlanta. "Wendy doesn't even have any family in El Salvador. She doesn't have anywhere to go. And there's no way I can protect her there."

Miranda's mother, Sandra, also worries about what will happen to her daughter if she's sent back to the country she fled nine years ago.

"She doesn't have anywhere to live and nowhere to go," she said. "She's so scared to go back. She's a different person now."

Miranda's immigration lawyer, Nardine Guirguis, last week filed a motion to reopen Miranda's case along with an emergency stay based on a "material change of circumstances."

Guirguis says a recent and "substantial change in circumstances" — one that she wouldn't elaborate on — has led her to believe that Miranda's life is in serious danger if she returns to El Salvador and that deportation "could very possibly result in her death."

Butterfield's office wrote a letter to ICE on Thursday asking for a delay in her removal proceedings until she can "exhaust all legal options."

"Ms. Miranda does not have a criminal record and does not appear to be a threat to public safety or national security. To the contrary, prior to President Trump’s January 25, 2017, Executive Order and Secretary Kelly’s February 20, 2017, implementation memo, Ms. Miranda was not an enforcement priority and ICE granted Ms. Miranda three stays of removal in 2014, 2015, and 2016," Butterfield wrote.