A Durham high school student who fled her native El Salvador after her father was murdered was deported Friday morning.
Early in the day the group Alerta Migratoria had said Ingrid Portillo Hernandez, a student at the School for Creative Studies, had been transferred from Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, to LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, and could be deported “at any moment.”
By Friday afternoon a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website listed Portillo as no longer in custody.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who had been working on Portillo’s behalf during an appeals process, confirmed Portillo had been removed from the country. Butterfield had sent a letter to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña late Thursday urging her to halt the teen’s deportation.
“I find her premature removal and failure of due process in her removal proceedings very troubling,” Butterfield said in a statement Friday night. “The unwillingness of leadership officials within the Department of Homeland Security to exercise their discretion to pause Ingrid’s removal at least until the (Bureau of Immigration Appeals) had the opportunity to make its decision on her appeal is troubling.
“Ingrid returns to El Salvador where her father was murdered and she has received threats against her life,” the statement continued. “I pray for Ingrid’s safety and for her family and friends in Durham that are dealing with this difficult decision.”
Portillo, who is 17 or 18 years old, was detained on her way to school May 17. Her family went public Wednesday, as her scheduled deportation neared.
ESL teacher Debbie Granger taught Portillo last year and visited her in July. She brought the teen an English Bible, and they spoke by phone across a partition.
“Obviously she was worried,” Granger said. “You could see she was worried about what was going to happen to her. She was wondering, ‘What will happen? What will happen?’
El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In January the U.S. Department of State updated the travel warning for the country to notify U.S. citizens about travel safety concerns, according to a March report by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, a part of the department.
In 2015, authorities recorded 6,657 killings, a 69.8 percent percent increase from the 3,921 in 2014, according to the report, which blamed the rise on the end of a controversial 2012 truce between local gangs.
Rape remains a serious concern, the report said.
Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, previously helped obtain the release of Wildin Acosta, 19, who was taken into custody Jan. 28 as he too left his Durham home for school.
Acosta told immigration authorities he was fleeing gang violence in his native Honduras when he was stopped at the Texas border in 2014.
He attended a court hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, but failed to show up for one in March 2015. On March 30, 2015, a deportation order was issued for him.
Butterfield said Acosta’s release would allow him to present his case for asylum.