Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bill halts deportation of high school valedictorian (Fresno Bee)

Bill halts deportation of high school valedictorian

06/11/08 16:09:48

The father of the Bullard High School valedictorian who had faced deportation to Armenia will be released Thursday from a detention facility in Arizona so that he can be reunited with his family in Fresno, federal officials said Wednesday.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a Senate bill Tuesday evening that halts the deportation of Arthur Mkoyan, 17, his mother Asmik Karapetian and Ruben Mkoian, Arthur's father.

Arthur, a 4.0 grade-point average student, learned of Feinstein's bill shortly after his graduation ceremony Tuesday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had ordered Arthur and his mother to leave the United States in late June and return to Armenia. Arthur's 12-year-old brother, a U.S. citizen, would have had no choice but to leave with the family, family members have said.

Ruben Mkoian is in a detention facility in Eloy, Ariz., but because of the bill, he will be released Thursday, said Virginia Kice, a ICE spokeswoman.

"We are preparing to release him," Kice said.

The private bill would grant permanent legal residency, but private bills rarely pass. As long as the bill is pending or is reintroduced, however, it protects its beneficiaries from deportation.

Arthur's family, who entered the United States on tourist visas, had fled the former Soviet Union and had been seeking asylum since 1992. Ruben Mkoian's application for asylum was rejected.

Mkoian, who spells his name differently from his son, appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The court rejected his appeal, saying he hadn't demonstrate that Armenian officials would be unwilling to protect him or that he would be tortured if he returned to Armenia.

Once Asmik Karapetian learned her husband was coming home, she said she was in shock.

"Everything is happening so fast. Oh, my God. It's like a dream," Karapetian said.

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