Federal Judge Steps In, Halts Girls' Deportation KLASTV.COM 20 JAN 2005
A family attorney says the girls spent nearly 10 hours in a holding cell waiting for their deportation flight out of Los Angeles. In a race against time, friends, family and lawyers teamed up to keep the girls here. Atle Erlingsson, Reporter
(Jan. 20) -- An emergency court order came late Wednesday afternoon just minutes before the girls were to board a flight for Armenia. Eyewitness News first reported this story Tuesday night and it captured the hearts of many Las Vegans who have called wanting to help.
Reporter Atle Erlingsson has been following the story from the beginning and has the following developments.
A family attorney says the girls spent nearly 10 hours in a holding cell waiting for their deportation flight out of Los Angeles. In a race against time friends, family and lawyers teamed up to keep the girls here. Some spent time in federal court while others hit the picket lines. Ruben Sarkisian, the teen's father, said, "My knees were shaking. I had to sit down. It's hard to express. I was not laughing. I was literally in shock." Sarkisian couldn't believe the news.
Sarkisian's two oldest daughters, 18-year-old Emma and 17-year-old Mariam are caught in the middle of an immigration tug-of-war. The government wants them deported. Their family wants them here.
"I really hope that my girls will be released as soon as possible," Rueben said.
Emma and Mariam have lived in America most of their lives. They immigrated here with their mom 14 years ago. The girls now live with their dad who is a resident. But the government says the girls are not and must leave. These are two Americanized teenagers who could be sent back to Armenia thousands of miles away to a lifestyle they know nothing about.
Family attorney, Troy Baker said, "They don't speak the language of the country they're being sent back to. They don't have any friends, relatives, nothing. They would literally be taken off the plane and left to fend for themselves." Troy Baker is one of three immigration lawyers helping the family.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge granted an emergency stay preventing immigration officials from deporting the girls until all issues can be hammered out in court.
Meanwhile, two-dozen friends and family picketed outside the Las Vegas USCIS office demanding the release of the girls.
Baker says the government is keeping them at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles; "Essentially they've been in a hotel, converted into a jail cell, if you will, guarded, unable to leave. No freedom whatsoever."
Immigration officials have until Monday to respond to the emergency order. A judge will then set a date for a hearing.
The government is still detaining the girls. But family attorneys plan to file another motion Thursday hoping the judge will free them until their future is decided.
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