NC college student who was facing deportation cleared to stay
A Gardner-Webb University student, who grew up in Forest City and was faced with the threat of deportation, will get to stay in the U.S. after learning an interview over her immigration status was canceled.
"It's some of the most intense days that I've had. I can say that for sure," said Sthefany Flores Fuentes.
Flores Fuentes came to the U.S. when she was 7 years old, eventually earning DACA status.
Under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama-era immigration policy, certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay for a renewable 2-year period of deferred action from deportation.
Flores Fuentes said she was on her third renewal when a letter came in the mail from the Department of Homeland Security.
"When I first heard, I was completely devastated just for the fact that I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. I knew all my paperwork was in order," Flores Fuentes said.
She said she was even more confused because the ID number on the letter did not belong to her.
A few days later, she says she got the same letter with the correct ID.
According to the letter, she faced the threat of deportation and had to meet with officials in Charlotte on Wednesday for an interview.
"I think the line that hit me the most was that I needed to have 40 pounds maximum of baggage in case they found that I should be deported that day," she said.
That's when the help poured in from her university, friends, lawyers and lawmakers.
"This has brought, I guess, a fire to me that I didn't have before, and I just really want to be helpful and protect people that maybe don't have the advantages that she has," Sue Fair, a previous professor of Flores Fuentes, said.
Even the university president got involved, though he doesn't consider himself to be a political figure.
"I don't think of myself in that way, but if it takes being political, if it takes contacting political leaders to help my students, sure I will be. Yeah, definitely," President Frank Bonner said.
He said he wrote letters to lawmakers telling them about Flores Fuentes.
Flores Fuentes also did some digging herself and found there had been a mix-up with her documentation.
"They couldn't find my files on my most recent renewal even though I had verification online, and I was verified for my new DACA, which started March 15," she said.
Eventually, she received an email from a representative from ICE, saying her records had been located and she no longer needed to come to Charlotte for an interview.
"It made a stable precedence for other DACA students and DACA recipients that have this protection and that they know if they haven't done anything wrong, they are still safe," she said.
Now, she's focused on her studies and finals to close out her junior year.
Her biggest concern, however, is for others with DACA status who don't have the support she had.
"If something bad happened to me, what is to prevent something bad happening to someone else with DACA protection," she said.