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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended September 17, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 19Sep00

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

INS Policies at Portland's Airport Stir Charges of Anti-Foreign Bias
San Francisco Chronicle (New York Times) 15Sep00 T2
By Sam Howe Verhovek: New York Times


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