DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) --When they first met at Riverside High School, Robert Paulino knew Wendy Miranda would be more than a sweetheart.
"She's my soul mate," Paulino told ABC11. "She's my right arm. She's my everything."
Paulino, 21, spoke to us from Atlanta where he just wrapped up a visit to see his fiancé, who's being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The El Savador-born Miranda, 23, was officially given a final notice of removal by a federal judge in March.
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"She's not a criminal, she's not a robber," Paulino lamented. "She paid crazy money for a lawyer and she's done everything right."
Indeed, Miranda has kept a clean record since entering the US, but she's been on the government's radar since she was first caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in 2008. According to federal officials, Miranda was an unaccompanied teenager, and thus granted temporary entry into the United States, pending deportation hearings.
Miranda's family claimed she fled her native El Salvador after witnessing a crime and worried her life was threatened by gang violence.
"She won't be safe," Paulino claimed. "I can't protect her here when she's over there."
Miranda's long process of removal proceedings began in 2010, and officials explained she's been through "multiple levels of appeals."
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took unlawfully present Salvadoran national Wendy Miranda into custody March 22 in Charlotte, N.C., after she received all appropriate process before the federal immigration courts," Bryan Cox, spokesman for ICE Southern Region, explained to ABC11. "Ms. Miranda is subject to a final order of removal issued in August 2016. She subsequently filed a request for stay of removal, which was denied March 10. ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, as Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt entire classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States."
To Paulino, though, it's unfair and unjust. If and when Miranda returns to El Salvador, he says he'll still join her.
"We will get married and our dreams will come true."
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