Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Legislator’s Wife Is Allowed to Stay in U.S.

ATLANTA, Dec. 5 — The wife of a Georgia state legislator who was facing deportation reported to federal court on Tuesday morning expecting to be arrested. Instead, an immigration judge allowed her to return to her suburban home.

The judge stayed the deportation order against the woman, Sascha Herrera Thompson, 28, and agreed to reopen her case. Upon hearing the decision, Ms. Thompson and her husband, State Senator Curt B. Thompson, 37, “both just started to cry,” said Charles H. Kuck, their lawyer.
Ms. Thompson, who married Mr. Thompson in April and is studying for a master’s degree in professional writing, could have been charged with a felony and barred from re-entering the United States for 10 years.

Ms. Thompson, a native of Colombia, had been in hiding since Nov. 28, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents appeared at the couple’s home in Norcross, Ga.

Mr. Thompson said he and his wife were unaware of the deportation order and a request for asylum that was filed on her behalf.

In a statement last week, Mr. Thompson said his wife had been the victim of an unscrupulous “notario,” a person who typically helps immigrants file paperwork for citizenship but does not have any special legal expertise. The notario filed a request for asylum for Ms. Thompson without her knowledge, he said.

Because all correspondence about her case was sent to the notario, Mr. Thompson said, Ms. Thompson missed a crucial court hearing in February 2005.

Soon after, an immigration judge issued a deportation order and closed her case.
Mr. Thompson said he and his wife thought she was in the United States legally on a student visa.

At the hearing, Terry C. Bird, the district counsel for the immigration agency, told the judge that he would not oppose Ms. Thompson’s motion to reopen her case.

“Legally, it’s as if she never missed that amnesty hearing,” Mr. Thompson said.
The judge allowed Ms. Thompson to return home pending another hearing.

An immigrant in this country who marries a United States citizen may apply for an adjustment of status, commonly called a green card, but approval is not automatic and processing a spousal petition can take months. In the meantime, Mr. Kuck said, the deportation order against Ms. Thompson trumped everything.

Mr. Thompson, who represents the most ethnically diverse district in Georgia, said he was used to hearing about his constituents’ immigration problems but was caught flat-footed when he became involved in a similar legal battle.

“It does make it more vivid,” he said, “living it, as opposed to just having it around you.”

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