Lakewood Woman Faces Deportation

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Amina Silmi, a Venezuelan-born Muslim, has lived in the Cleveland area for 13 years. She has three American-born children, ages 5, 6 and 11. But immigration officials say her visa expired over ten years ago and have ordered Silmi to leave the country.

Tonight's vigil at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lakewood is the Muslim community's effort to pressure immigration officials to change their ruling before it's too late. Despite a pending appeal late this month before the Board of Immigration Appeals of the U.S. Department of Justice, Silmi could be deported this week. That's what Julia Shearson says. Shearson is the director for the Cleveland office of the Council on American Islamic Relations. She says there are larger issues at stake.

Julia Shearson: Perhaps because of the events after 9-11, there may be no discretionary action for people who are Arab or Muslim. I hope that that is not the case, but on humanitarian grounds, I think that they need to reopen and reexamine this case.

Silmi has told immigration authorities that she's been a victim of domestic violence. Immigration officials deported her second husband to Jordan in December. If she had more time, Shearson says Silmi could have applied for a new visa, including one available under the Violence Against Women Act. It's been traumatizing experience, Shearson says, for all.

Julia Shearson: Her oldest daughter - her name is Haiat and in Arabic that means life. Well, a week and a half ago, Amina told me that her daughter wanted to kill herself if they were going to take her mother away. I just don't think that eleven year old children need to be saying things like that.

Further complicating the case, Silmi and her children do not have valid passports. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman whose district includes Lakewood, asked Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge to stop Silmi's deportation but has received no answer. Silmi has been ordered to surrender herself to immigration officials on Wednesday. She may be held in detention for up to 90 days before being deported. In Cleveland, Tasha Cook, 90.3.

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