CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina college student bracing for a deportation hearing has learned she can stay in the U.S. after all.
Local media outlets report Sthefany Flores Fuentes was scheduled to appear Wednesday in Charlotte for an immigration meeting that could have led to her being deported to Honduras.
Flores Fuentes, a junior honors student at Gardner-Webb University, received a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on April 1 saying arrangements had been made to send her back to a country she hasn't been to since she was 7 years old.
On Monday, Flores Fuentes was told ICE was canceling the meeting. She said officials told her signals had gotten crossed between ICE and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles renewals for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, and that her DACA extension had been located.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed Fuentes' accounts of the hearing being canceled, but he declined further comment, citing privacy rules.
Flores Fuentes spent most of her childhood in Forest City, where she attended public school from elementary through high school graduation. She said she was first given DACA status, which allows young immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought here as children to remain in the U.S, in 2013 when she was a student at East Rutherford High School in Bostic. She has since renewed her application three times, most recently on March 15. She has a work permit valid through 2019 and no criminal record.
Flores Fuentes is majoring in journalism, with minors in theater and political science.
"It was unfortunate that she had to go through this experience. But we are happy that the deportation officer made a decision based on the facts and the basis of her character," said Byron Martinez, director of operations for Unidos We Stand, an immigrant advocacy group based in Gastonia that advocated on behalf of Flores Fuentes.
Flores Fuentes told The Charlotte Observer she has no resentment from her ordeal.
"I'm just really relieved. Now I can go back to just worrying about my final exams," she said. "The world just opened up, and I feel I have so much more time. ... I will be going to classes on Wednesday instead of that meeting."