The Colombia-born wife of a Georgia state senator emerged from hiding and turned herself in Tuesday to face a deportation order, but an immigration judge lifted the order and she was expected to be freed.
Sascha Herrera, 28, who had gone into hiding after the order was issued, arrived at the Martin Luther King Federal Building shortly before 8 a.m. and met with the judge and attorneys for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office.
Government lawyer Terry Bird said the judge lifted the order and agreed to reopen her case. He said she would likely be freed Tuesday pending a hearing on a petition filed by Herrera’s husband, state Sen. Curt Thompson, to establish permanent residency for her. The hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Herrera’s lawyer, Charles Kuck, said although the order was lifted Herrera is still technically in deportation proceedings. He said he expects the hearing will be held in the next two to four months.
Bird said the judge’s review of Herrera’s residency status could put her on track for a chance to become a U.S. citizen.
Herrera had said she was very nervous when she arrived at the federal building.
“I think I’m doing the right thing. I hope my name and my husband’s name is clean,” she said.
She had 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.
Failed to appear for asylum application
The deportation order stemmed from Herrera’s repeated failure to appear before a judge on an asylum application, which Kuck said she did not know had been filed.
Kuck claims she was duped by a man handling her immigration requests and that she never received the immigration notices.
Thompson, a Democrat and attorney, has been a strong advocate of immigration rights.
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 told the notario she did not want anything to do with him.
She met Thompson last year and they got married in April, when he applied for her to become a permanent resident.
But in the meantime, the notario filed the asylum application, listing his address as hers.