Nevada sisters facing possible deportation to be released from LA

Associated Press
Jan 28 2005

Nevada sisters facing possible deportation to be released from LA

LOS ANGELES – Immigration officials agreed late Thursday to release
into their father’s custody two Armenian teenage sisters facing
possible deportation, overriding a federal judge’s ruling that the
two must remain at a Los Angeles immigration facility.

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Johnston in Las Vegas
said he could find no legal basis to return Emma Sarkisian, 18, and
her sister Mariam, 17, to their family while their deportation case
is pending.

“I have to have the law, have to have some authority” to issue such
an order, Johnston said. “As I read the law, I don’t have any

Late Thursday, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
spokeswoman Virginia Kice confirmed that officials had agreed to
release the girls to their father, who is a legal resident. She said
they would be handed over on Friday.

“We’ve thoroughly reviewed the case and have decided based on
humanitarian reasons to release them,” Kice told The Associated
Press. “This doesn’t convey any legal immigration status on them.”

Kice said the girls would be allowed to return to Las Vegas but had
not been given permanent authorization to remain in the United

“ICE will continue to review the case,” she said. It was unclear
whether the two would be able to work while they awaited a final
decision on their status.

Their father, who runs the Tropicana Pizza restaurant in Henderson,
Nev., said after the decision the process is keeping him on an
emotional roller-coaster.

“It’s like life – one time up, one time down,” Rouben Sarkisian told
the Las Vegas Sun.

Johnston said he’ll schedule a hearing to determine if the girls will
be deported after lawyers file additional arguments on Tuesday.

The federal government had threatened to deport the sisters to
Armenia, the country in which they were born but barely know. In
1991, the sisters moved to the United States with their parents, who
later divorced. Although their father became a legal resident, his
ex-wife did not. The girls were ordered deported in 1993 and attempts
to make their status legal were blocked when the order was

They have since become involved in a lengthy appeals process.

If their father becomes a U.S. citizen he could petition for their

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and asked for “personal
attention” in the Sarkisian case.

Tessa Hafen, spokeswoman for Reid, said the senator “is fairly
confident this will reach resolution,” with the girls being allowed
to stay in the country.