Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Family's Immigration Nightmare Ends
PORTLAND, OREGON -- With the Portland office of the US Immigration and
Naturalization Service under fire for its handling of deportations, an LDS
couple was able to successfully resolve the threatened deportation of the
wife last week, now 11-weeks into a high-risk pregnancy. LDS Church member
Susan Williams, 32, a native of Guatemala, was threatened with deportation
by the INS, in spite of the fact that she was married to a US citizen
and had been a legal resident of the US for eight years.
Recently the Portland INS office has come under fire for its handling of
several cases, including the strip search of a Chinese businesswoman because
the picture on her passport was loose and looked like it could have been
replaced. The incidents and the fact that Portland has a higher deportation
rate that other INS offices on the US west coast. This has given the city
the nickname "Deportland" in some Asian countries. Even Republican Senator
Gordon Smith, an LDS Church member, has stepped in, along with fellow Senators,
to put pressure on the INS over the issue. "We don't want Portland to be known
as "Deportland," he said recently.
Williams arrived in the US in 1992, a refugee from political violence in her
native Guatemala. Since her brother worked in the Guatemalan government's
intelligence agency, Williams feared leftist guerrillas in her country.
After three years with a pending asylum case, a US federal immigration judge
denied her request for asylum, citing a lack of a credible fear. She
appealed the decision, and while the case was on appeal, met Rick Williams
through an LDS singles group. They married in the Manti Temple, but just two
months later, Susan Williams was ordered to leave the US.
Both the Williams' assumed that their marriage would change her status
because Rick is a US citizen. They submitted a request to the INS to reopen
the case within 90 days, but the INS didn't even process the case for 17
months. The couple then spent $10,000 fighting the case, including a 1999
appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which declined to hear the
case in March. The INS then wrote to Williams, giving her until October 12th
to leave or be deported. The INS letter said that there was "no
administrative relief which may be extended to you."
Williams had taken every step she could to stay in the US with her husband.
In addition to three years of appeals by lawyers, local LDS Church leaders
had spoken on her behalf, as had the California congressional delegation and
more than 1,000 friends and neighbors.
Since losing her appeal, Williams has had to report monthly to the INS'
office in person. Resolving to make a final appeal, Williams spent
Wednesday, September 13th in the Portland Temple praying for her husband and
her baby, who is closely monitored because of Susan Williams' high blood
pressure. She says she wrote on the Temple prayer roll "Voluntary departure"
while she was there.
Coincidentally, the Portland INS office's district director, David Beebe,
responded to criticism of the agency the same day. In a memorandum to all
INS officers dated that day, Beebe directed them to look for all possible
avenues of relief before making a final determination in cases of foreign
spouses of US citizens. So when the Williams' arrived Thursday morning,
they were immediately sent to the office of Assistant District Director W.
Scott Cihlar, who reviewed the case and quickly cleared the bureaucratic
hurdles that kept Williams from collecting a visa and becoming a permanent
legal resident, eventually eligible for citizenship.
The INS' Cihlar claims that the recent negative publicity about the had no
impact on how the case was handled. He says he simply looked at the merits
of the case, and was able to reverse the deportation order. He had already
told the Williams that he didn't want to talk about the case in the newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Williams' are grateful that their prayers have been answered.
They are also grateful to Scott Cihlar, for speeding the case along. They
say that they decided in the INS's office that if their baby is a boy, they
will name it "Trevor Scott Williams."
INS ends woman's nightmare
Portland OR Oregonian 15Sep00 P2
By Julie Sullivan: The Oregonian Staff
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San Francisco Chronicle (New York Times) 15Sep00 T2
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