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Ga. state senator's wife faces deportation

Georgia State Sen. Curt Thompson's Colombia-born wife is in hiding as federal immigration officials try to deport her.
/ Source: The Associated Press

State Sen. Curt Thompson has been a strong advocate of immigration rights, once speaking in Spanish from the steps of the Georgia Capitol against the adoption of some of the nation’s strictest immigration controls.

Now Thompson’s Colombia-born wife is in hiding as federal immigration officials try to deport her.

Sascha Herrera, 28, has been in hiding since Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrived at her home Nov. 28 with an order to remove her from the U.S. She was not home at the time.

Her attorney, Charles Kuck, claims she was duped by a man handling her immigration requests and that she never received the immigration notices that triggered her deportation order. While Kuck says neither he nor her husband know where Herrera is, he said that she will turn herself in Tuesday.

“It’s the right thing to do. She needs to get the law to work for her,” Kuck said.

Unknown asylum application?
Kuck filed a petition Monday to halt her deportation order and reopen her case, arguing that a man filed an asylum petition on her behalf without her knowledge and before her husband sponsored her green card application based on their April marriage.

The deportation order stems from Herrera’s repeated failure to appear before a judge on the asylum application, which Kuck said she did not know had been filed.

The case hinges on whether Herrera received a notice to appear in court, and whether the asylum application could have been filed without her knowledge, said Victor Cerda, former general counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to Kuck, Herrera came to the U.S. — where her parents have been living — on a visitor visa in 2003. She applied for an extension to the visa through a “notario” — a man who claimed he was qualified to handle legal immigration matters — but did not get it until 20 days before the extension was due to expire.

The notario then suggested an asylum application, which Herrera signed, but she got a “bad vibe” from the man and decided not to proceed, Kuck said.

Later in 2004, she was accepted as a student at Kennesaw State University, which got a student visa for her. She then told the notario she did not want anything to do with him.

Request for stay could be in jeopardy
She met Thompson last year and they got married in April, when he applied for her to become a permanent resident. Kuck said Herrera’s husband, a Democrat and attorney, would not comment on the case.

But in the meantime, the notario filed the asylum application, listing his address as hers. A telephone number listed for the notario, identified as Tomas Vilela, was being answered Monday by a fax machine.

Cerda said the deportation order in the asylum case would trump any pending green card application and trigger mandatory detention.

Her decision to hide could hurt her request for a judge’s stay on deportation, Cerda said. If she turns herself in, she could remain in the U.S. while her petition is pending, either in jail or released on bond.