THOMASVILLE, N.C. — A Guatemalan woman living in Thomasville faces deportation next month, forcing her 15-year-old son to choose between going with her and entering foster care without her.
Orfilia Sagastume-Reyes came to the U.S. in 1993 after political activists murdered her brother in Guatemala. A backlog of political asylum cases allowed her to stay until 2000, when Orfilia claims faulty legal advice led her to sign a voluntary deportation waiver.
Now the 54-year-old woman, her 25-year-old son Fredd, and her 15-year-old son Fredi want Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reopen her case.
The family hopes the ICE will allow Orfilia to apply for a green card, which they believe she could obtain due to the number of relatives she has living in the U.S. legally.
If Orfilia isn’t able to obtain a green card, the ICE will deport her on June 7.
“I ask God for a miracle… That someone will take heart or put themselves in my shoes,” Reyes said, speaking in Spanish.
Fredi, who qualifies as an American citizen, is also an honor student at East Davidson High School, where he plays the saxophone.
Fredi was born in North Carolina and has never been to Guatemala, but said he’ll go if his mother is deported.
“I don’t leave family behind,” Fredi said.
Still, the prospect of leaving everything he’s ever known to move back to a country with higher crime rates and fewer educational opportunities is a chilling one.
“Everything I hear about Guatemala is awful. It seems like a bad place. Davidson County is much better than anything in Guatemala,” Fredi said.
Fredi’s older brother also has an immigration status in limbo, but Fredd said he’s more worried about his little brother.
“This kid’s about to lose his whole world. His friends, his education, his opportunities are all here, and to force him to leave because of this?” Fredd said.
ICE released a statement late Tuesday confirming that Orfilia is under a final deportation order, but agents said she didn’t need to have her case reopened to stay past June 7.
“ICE has not received any requests from Ms. Reyes for a stay of removal or deferred action in her case,” the statement says. “Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and take into account a number of factors, including criminal history, U.S. citizen children and the equities an alien has established in a community over time.”
The family’s lawyer, Jeremy McKinney, said the deferred action would allow Orfilia to stay in the country temporarily, but deportation would still be the final chapter of the story.
McKinney said reopening the case and giving Orfilia the chance at a green card is the only thing that could keep her here for good for certain.