Illegal immigrant fighting to stay in U.S.

A Volusia County woman who’s living in the country illegally says fighting to stay in the United States is the same thing as fighting for her life. 

“I came almost 20 years ago,” said Doris Fuentes. “It’s like a death sentence my doctor said, if I go back to Honduras.” 

Fuentes’ doctor says she has severe hypertension and that the only kidney Fuentes has that works, is starting to fail.  Fuentes, who lives in Daytona Beach, says she’s been able to get free care at Volusia Volunteers in Medicine. 

“In my country, it’s not a way that I can get a treatment like I have right here,” Fuentes explained. 

“I’m not sure that she can get the chronic dialysis that she would need to keep her going,” said Dr. Kathleen Santi, who treats Fuentes.  

But Fuentes’ future in this country is now unclear as the Trump administration cracks down on illegal immigration.  Diego Handel says one of Fuentes’ employers suggested she bring an attorney when she checked in with immigration officials in April. 

“Initially, they were ready to take her in, as we were afraid,” Handel said. 

He says after they handed over Fuentes’ medical records, they were given more time. But Handel says one of the officers told him she wouldn’t be able to remain in the country for much longer. 

“She was going to have another report date in July, a few months ago, and at that time, they were going to take her no matter what,” Handel explained. 

Since then, they’ve been battling to prevent her deportation. Handel says that Fuentes has been granted a stay. 

“Essentially, what that means is that for the time being, they’re not removing her. That could change in a heartbeat,” he said. 

Handel says they are being proactive in the meantime. He’s filed a complaint in federal court arguing the government cannot remove her.  Fuentes, who cleans houses and works as a nanny for a living, is backed by many of her employers and the physicians who care for her.  Doctors from the Volusia Volunteers in Medicine even paid for her reduced legal fees and court fees. 

“She’s a credit to the United States. Not someone who should leave,” Handel said. “She should be welcomed here.” 

“I think it’s going to be about mercy, you know,” Fuentes said. 

Court records show Fuentes was convicted of forgery or false use of a passport in 2014. That same year, she says she started checking in with ICE regularly.