Orfilia Sagastume-Reyes, mother in limbo

Fredi Reyes’ mom Orfilia means everything to him. He’s only 15, but he speaks eloquently about his mother.

“She is the person that allowed me to live,” he said. “She has supported me through the best and worst of times. She is the one who has motivated me to do good in school, and the one who tells me to not be afraid of showing who I really am.”

Yet even though he is doing well in school and has such solid support, Fredi is worried about his future, and his mother’s too. His concern is well founded — after fleeing the Guatemalan Civil War, his mother has lived in the United States for decades but now faces deportation. Even though Fredi is a US citizen, since he is a minor he would either be placed in foster care or would have to leave the country with his mother to a country he’s never visited.

“I would not be able to find a school for him to attend, and the schools available that teach in the English language would be too expensive for me to be able to afford,” Orfilia said. “I could not imagine my life with my son in Guatemala. Every time I bring up the subject with my son he cries so much, he also fears going to Guatemala because it is a country he does not know, and a country where he has no idea what would happen to him.”

While she is worried about her ability to find work and get by in Guatemala, a country she left after her brother was killed and she received death threats, her primary concern is her son.

Orfilia, who is 54, withdrew her appeal for asylum based on bad advice from a lawyer and has since sought to correct the mistake with different legal counsel to no avail. If her case is reopened, she can file for a green card and legalize her status in the United States. Otherwise, she faces deportation in next month.

Her sons Fredi and Fredd are fighting to keep her here, with support from people in Greensboro like Lori Khamala at the American Friends Service Committee. An online petition to stop her deportation has nearly reached its 1,000-signature goal, and a vigil is planned for May 15. Older son Fredd, who lives in Greensboro, worries about his mother and little brother who live in Thomasville and unfortunately could not legally take guardianship of his brother because Fredd doesn’t have citizenship either.

According to her lawyer, Orfilia has no criminal history and no other history of immigration violations besides overstaying her visa to seek the protection of the United States.

When Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to his house months ago, Fredi was confused and angry. He felt helpless.

“As I sat there… listening to ICE interrogate my mom and brother, saying that there was no hope for us, so many things were running through my head,” Fredi said. “Two questions kept running through my head: ‘Where do I stand in all of this? And what will become of me?’”