Officials detain Armenian family fighting to stay in U.S.

Denver Post, CO
Nov. 5, 2004

Officials detain Armenian family fighting to stay in U.S.

By Nancy Lofholm
Denver Post Staff Writer

Four weeping members of an Armenian family that has fought for five
years to stay in America were taken into custody Thursday morning for

Ruben, Gevorg, Meri and Hayk Sargsyan were incarcerated by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Aurora over the
objections of their attorney, Jeff Joseph.

Joseph said that immigration officials are ignoring a 2001 law creating
special visas for immigrants who have been victims of human trafficking
or violence.

Joseph said he has asked for help from U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, and if
that fails, he plans to take the matter to federal court.

“This is an absolutely overzealous interpretation of the law,” Joseph

He has filed for the special visas for the Sargsyans, claiming that
they were victimized when they came to the United States with student
visas in 1999.

Immigration officials have told The Denver Post that the family’s legal
challenges have been exhausted, and it’s time for them to return to

The Sargsyans came to the Western Slope town of Ridgway after the
eldest Sargsyan daughter, Nvart, married American Vaughn Huckfeldt. The
Sargsyans allege that Huckfeldt abused his wife and took money from a
number of other Armenians in the family’s hometown of Yerevan,
promising he would obtain visas for them. He left with the money, the
Sargsyans said, and those who had been duped blamed the Sargsyans for
Huckfeldt’s actions.

Huckfeldt eventually obtained visas for the Sargsyan family but
reported them for being in the country on the wrong type of visa after
Nvart filed for divorce.

The Sargsyans say they fear persecution – even execution – by the
Russian Mafia if they are sent back to Armenia.

Joseph said that when his clients turned themselves over Thursday,
officials refused to look at a petition signed by 1,500 Ouray County
residents who urged that the Sargsyans be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Pete Whiskeman, a Ridgway businessman who spearheaded the petition
drive, said the family has done everything in its power to conform with
the law.

“But Immigration appears to be acting above the law.”