Sthefany Flores Fuentes was shocked earlier this month when she received an official letter from immigration officials demanding that she show up to their offices in Charlotte April 19 with all her belongings. She was scheduled for deportation.
After weeks of panic, on Monday she was surprised again, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apologized for the "inconvenience," admitting in a phone call that they’d made a mistake about her deportation. She should not prepare to leave the United States after all, an official told her.
The news came as a huge relief for Flores, 20, who's in her third year at Gardner-Webb University, where she studies journalism and is an honor student.
“I'm so relieved and so happy to know that I get to stay in my home and complete my bachelor's degree,” Flores, who plans to graduate in 2018, told Univision News.
When Flores received the letter April 1, the Honduran immigrant thought it must be a mistake: it had been less than a month since she had renewed her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permit, which has protected her from deportation since 2012.
But the letter had her name, address and nationality, asking her to arrive ready to travel, with a suitcase that weighed no more than 40 pounds.
“The letter said that they found me deportable, that I had received several letters about this and that there was no more official help they could give me (to stay in the United States),” Flores told Univision. “But I have DACA and I understood that I would be protected.”
There was one error on the document: the listed alien number — which is a unique identifier for undocumented immigrants, akin to a Social Security number— was incorrect.
So Flores, who lives in Rutherford County, contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to clarify what she believed was an administrative error.
But they assured her it was not a mistake, sending her another letter —this time with her correct alien number— saying she still needed to appear.
Everything changed suddenly on Monday, two days before the dreaded appointment, when an immigration official informed her that he had found her file and confirmed her status as a DACA recipient. He also announced that she did not have to appear before immigration agents like the letter said.
"I apologize for any inconvenience," the agent added.
The young woman has not received an explanation about what caused the misunderstanding, said Byron Martinez, an activist with “Unidos We Stand,” who has assisted Flores over the last few weeks.
“We are truly happy that the system prevailed,” Martinez said. “It was unfortunate that she had to go through this experience. This is a person that has strived to do her best given the conditions of her status in the U.S. She is very bright. And has achieved so much and she serves as an example of true American ideals.”