Sisters who faced deportation to Armenia return home to Las Vegas

LasVegas Sun, NV
Jan 30 2005

Sisters who faced deportation to Armenia return home to Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS (AP) – Two teenage sisters who spent more than two weeks
awaiting deportation to a country they haven’t seen since they were
toddlers returned home Friday after being released from immigration

“It feels great. I’m so happy to see my family,” said Emma Sarkisian,
18, who was surrounded by family and friends at her father’s pizza
shop in Henderson.

Sarkisian and her sister Mariam, 17, had been held at a Los Angeles
immigration center since Jan. 14.

Although the sisters were born in what is now known as Armenia, they
were raised in the United States after their father emigrated from
the former Soviet Union in 1991.

The sisters’ residency status was not discovered until a trip to the
Department of Motor Vehicles. After meeting with immigration
officials in Las Vegas, they learned they faced an outstanding
deportation order. Until then, the family thought the sisters were
properly documented.

They were taken into custody after they complied with a summons to
report to the local immigration office. There they learned they were
being sent to Armenia, a place where they have no family and hadn’t
seen since they were 3- and 4-year-olds.

“It was terrible,” Emma Sarkisian said, recalling her despair about
being sent to Armenia. “How am I going to go back? I don’t read. I
don’t write. I don’t speak.”

Immigration officials agreed late Thursday to release the sisters
into their father’s custody after Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to give the case “personal

“We’ve thoroughly reviewed the case and have decided based on
humanitarian reasons to release them,” said Virginia Kice,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman. “This doesn’t convey
any legal immigration status on them.”

“ICE will continue to review the case,” she said.

The girls’ father, Rouben Sarkisian, is a legal resident, who can
file for citizenship and then seek residency status for his

Mariam Sarkisian expressed gratitude for being reunited with her
family and away from the detention center in Los Angeles.

“It was horrible,” Sarkisian said. “You just think about your family,
the stuff you really don’t appreciate until it’s taken away from