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French Skier/Nurse Adjusting From VWP Now Facing Deportation

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Durango Nurse Facing Deportation

By Chase Olivarius-Macallister, Durango Herald, March 11, 2015

David Wyatt is pacing the living room, sobbing into the phone, begging congressmen for help.

(Caption: Fighting back tears, Sonia Belouniss describes living in constant fear that shell be deported to France or jailed by ICE after missing a visa application deadline by 22 days shortly after she married David Wyatt, a U.S. citizen and longtime love, in 2014, in La Plata County.)

(Caption: Sonia Belouniss, left, and husband David Wyatt speak about their uncertain future and their anxious present since learning that Belouniss might be deported to France.)

(Caption: Sonia Belouniss stands next to bags packed with her belongings at her and her husband David Wyatts Durango home. Belouniss has been living out of these bags since her lawyer told her immigration officials might deport her at any moment.)

At any moment, his wife, Sonia Belouniss a Durango resident and French citizen who works as a nurse at Four Corners Health Care might be deported.

In perfect English, Belouniss tells Wyatt, David, you have to stop worrying. Or well fall apart.

She is crying, too.

After missing a visa deadline by 22 days and a brush with the law in 2014, Belouniss illegal status has transformed the couples dream of making a life together in America into a bureaucratic nightmare dominated by a prison stay, fear and spurned pleas for mercy from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

At a time when the Obama Administration has directed the Department of Homeland Security to focus on deporting felons, not families, Belouniss plight also raises pressing questions about immigrants rights to due process in a country where a couples entire happiness, solvency, mental health and future residence comes down to a bureaucrats signature in Denver.

Belouniss met Wyatt 20 years ago, when she was a French teenage skiing prodigy on the U.S. Pro Ski Tour competing in slalom and giant slalom.

At 27, she retired, and then became a nurse. For years, the couple moved around Europe together, before Belouniss finally followed Wyatt to Durango in 2013, through the visa-waiver program. Before her 90 days were up, in December 2013, the couple impulsively married in the La Plata County Clerk & Recorders Office.

Finally, I asked her because Ive been in love with her for two decades, Wyatt said.

Contrary to popular belief, immigrants who marry U.S. citizens dont automatically become U.S. citizens. Instead, to gain citizenship, they must go through a long application process.

A lawyer told the newlyweds that Belouniss should apply for permanent residency. They started the paperwork.

Then, on Jan. 8, 2014, the couple fought, and Durango police went to their house.

Shes French so, you know, she was going la la la, said Wyatt, dismissing their raised voices as arising from a Gallic tendency to be animated when arguing with a lover.

Police arrested Belouniss for harassment and domestic violence. They also took her fingerprints.

Then their ordeal began: Belouniss had overstayed her visa by 22 days. Though the 6th Judicial District Attorneys Office dismissed all charges against Belouniss the next day, law enforcement held her in La Plata County jail for two days until authorities transferred her to Colorado Springs, where she spent more than a week in a prison populated by felons, before she landed in the ICE detention facility in Aurora.

Prison was terrifying. It was just awful. I mean, these people were criminals, Belouniss said.

In all, she spent almost a month incarcerated before the Department of Homeland Security stayed her deportation for a year on Feb. 4, 2014.

Its outrageous, said Jessica Kunevicius, the couples Denver-based immigration lawyer. Everyone is quick to call undocumented immigrants criminals. But Sonia spent a month in prison even though the cops dropped all charges. Sonia has no criminal history anywhere in the world. Shes a highly educated nurse. Now, Homeland Security and ICE are deporting French ski stars who are married to U.S. citizens?

After Belouniss was released, the couple applied to renew the stay of deportation in early February before the one in place lapsed.

However, ICE denied the request Feb. 24. In a ruling, ICE official Jeffrey Lynch wrote that ICE, in its unreviewable discretion, had determined that Belouniss falls within one or more of DHSs enforcement priorities as established by DHS Secretary (Jeh) Johnson on Nov. 20, 2014: to wit, Priority 2d; Mrs Belouniss has abused the visa-waiver program.

The ruling concludes: You may not file an appeal or motion to reopen/reconsider this decision.

A White House spokesman did not respond to questions about whether Belouniss is a priority under the Obama administrations new guidelines for deportation.

Kunevicius urged ICE to revisit the decision.

One 22-day overstay counts as significant abuse? she said.

Asked what constitutes significant abuse of the visa-waiver program, ICE Spokesman Carl Rusnok said, All I can tell you is, from my understanding of the VWP, you have 90 days. After that 90 days, youve abused the program.

He said he couldnt discuss the legal aspects of Belouniss case. Asked whether he could put The Durango Herald in touch with an ICE official who could, Rusnok said: All I can tell you is the people who are qualified to do that have already done that. They have already reviewed the case and determined, based on the available evidence, that this does not qualify for any sort of denial of deportation.

By the time ICE denied Belouniss request to renew the stay of deportation, the old stay had expired.

My lawyer told me they could come for me that day. What do you do? she said, crying. You pack.

And live in fear.

For the last two weeks, Belouniss and Wyatt have tried to hold it together. Yet, Wyatts health has nose-dived. When he read ICEs ruling refusing the stay, Wyatt became so afraid that they would seize Belouniss that he listed the couples belongings on Craigslist at fire-sale prices last week.

Weve just paid, and paid, and paid, he said.

Meanwhile, Belouniss has stopped eating, stopped sleeping.

I have no rights, she said. I learned that when I was in jail. I asked to see a judge, but they said, No. This is up to ICE. I pay U.S. taxes. When I got married, I thought: Hey, Ill be a U.S. citizen, like everybody else.

I understand that immigration is an issue in America. But they dont tell you when you come in on a visa-waiver program that you have no rights.

Last week, ICE said it might revisit its decision if the couple could supply proof that their relocating to France is not possible and not merely inconvenient and prove that Belouniss who traveled legally throughout the United States for years as a ski star has never before overstayed a visa.

Belouniss, who is living out of a bag right now in their Durango home, said she is petrified about the future.

She cant apply to become a U.S. citizen so long as ICE views her as a visa-waiver program violator.

David speaks two words of French, and his diplomas arent recognized there. If we went back to France, his life would be over. I just want to stay with my husband, she said.

Last week, Wyatt briefly held a trembling Belouniss before she left for work.

One possession leaned against their barren living room wall, like the shard of a broken promise: a poster of the Eiffel Tower.

Link to story here:

http://tinyurl.com/pspguqw


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Wonder how she was working?


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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Wonder how she was working?

Her deportation was suspended for 1 year. I assume USCIS gave her work authorization. Kinda like DACA?


Check my timeline for K-1 visa & AOS details

Conditional Permanent Resident: 16 September 2014

Conditional GC Expires: 16 September 2016

ROC Journey (CA Service Center)

2016-Sep-14: I-751 form, check, supporting docs sent USPS Priority Express

2016-Sep-15: ROC application received & signed for by Lakelieh

2016-Sep-15: NOA receipt date

2016-Sep-19: $590 check cashed by USCIS

2016-Sep-20: NOA/ 1-year extension letter received in mail

2018-Feb-26: ROC case transferred to local office

2018-Mar-06: ROC approved via USCIS website (WAC status check)

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No such thing.

She had that year to adjust


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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Watched this on the news last night and I kept saying "something else is missing here". No?


Caro

...........
2010-07-07 visit to my 2nd home in Phoenix, US
2010-07-24 got married!
2010-09-17 filed AOS
2010-09-23 NOA
2010-10-19 BIO
2010-12-14 Interview Phoenix, AZ
2010-12-15 Approval notice received
2010-12-24 Green Cards received for me & son
............
2012-09-15 I-751 sent
2012-09-25 I-797, NOA received
2013-01-16 BIO

2013-06-13 Approval notice received

2013-06-27 10yr Green Cards received for me & son

............

2013-09-27 N-400 Naturalization application sent

2013-10-03 Priority Date

2013-10-07 N-400, NOA received

2013-10-11 I-797C, NOA received

2013-10-25 BIO (notice bio done last 10 months ago)

2013-11-14 In line

2013-12-13 online status changed to "Scheduled for Interview"

2013-12-18 letter for interview

2014-01-21 Interview date that I had to request change due to travel

2014-02-18 Interview in Phoenix

2014-02-22 Naturalization Oath Ceremony - I am officially a dual citizen Canadian/American

...........

2015-11-04 N-400 Naturalization application sent for SON aged 20

2015-11-09 N-400, NOA rec'd for son

2015-11-20 I-797C, NOA rec'd for son

2015-12-02 BIO for son

2015-12-04 In line

2016-01-29 online status changed to "Scheduled for Interview" for son

2016-02-03 letter for interview for son

2016-03-07 Interview in Phoenix for son

2016-03-25 Naturalization Oath Ceremony for my son - he is officially a dual citizen Canadian/American

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No such thing.

She had that year to adjust


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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Wonder how she was working?

It says they started paperwork for permanent residency in Dec 2013, and the arrest was in Jan 2014. These articles often come up short on specifics. I'm sure this case is more complicated than what was presented. At least they have a good attorney.


QCjgyJZ.jpg

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To all those who think it's no big deal to rush and file before the alien spouse' visa expires.

This puts the deportable question to rest, no?

You will not get deported if you overstay. ICE will let you file for AOS late because of marriage to a USC. All wrong from this article.

This needs to be pinned at the top of the AOS forums.

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Sticky should include not getting arrested for domestic violence.

I used to live in Durango and am well aware of journalistic standards there.

I would be interested to know the full story.


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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Couple of years?

But that assumes the issues are just as stated which seems very unlikely.


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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There's probably no significant hardship to the husband if the French wife is deported (France is not some third world country, they have no kids, etc.) and he now has to move to France to live with her. So they're trying to adjust status in the US while possible. Once she's out of US soil, the difficulty level of immigrating back to the U.S. increases.


Check my timeline for K-1 visa & AOS details

Conditional Permanent Resident: 16 September 2014

Conditional GC Expires: 16 September 2016

ROC Journey (CA Service Center)

2016-Sep-14: I-751 form, check, supporting docs sent USPS Priority Express

2016-Sep-15: ROC application received & signed for by Lakelieh

2016-Sep-15: NOA receipt date

2016-Sep-19: $590 check cashed by USCIS

2016-Sep-20: NOA/ 1-year extension letter received in mail

2018-Feb-26: ROC case transferred to local office

2018-Mar-06: ROC approved via USCIS website (WAC status check)

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What is wrong with going back to France and then the husband could file I-130 & I-601 waiver to get her back here?

Easier to fight and be allowed to stay in the US during the fight versus fighting from abroad and being separated for years. Most people will take the first option.

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