Thursday, August 14, 2008

Her Shadow become a nightmare do to a Dysfunctional Immigration System

A Newport News woman who faced deportation Thursday for a decade-old crime has received a one-year extension a day after being pardoned by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Kathryn Anne Ingleson, 31, found out Wednesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had granted a request to postpone her deportation, her attorney said. Earlier Wednesday, a Newport News Circuit Court judge amended Ingleson's conviction for credit card theft to credit card fraud, which is not a deportable offense in Virginia. The action came a day after Kaine gave Ingleson a simple pardon _ or official forgiveness of the crime--and expressed his support for her to remain in the country and in Virginia. "Kathryn's excitement and glee and that of her family over these developments is tempered by the knowledge that she has yet to obtain a dismissal of the deportation order that is still pending against her," said Ingleson's attorney, Joseph Peter Drennan of Alexandria. "However, with these developments one cannot help but be optimistic

Ingleson moved to the United States from England with her parents when she was 7 as a lawful resident but failed to become a naturalized citizen. In 1997 she was convicted of stealing credit cards from customers at the store where she worked to buy a Christmas tree, some ornaments and other items valued at about $340. She paid restitution and completed probation.

When she returned from visiting a relative in England in 2003, Ingleson was arrested and placed in removal proceedings. Her appeals have been denied by immigration officials and the courts and a deportation date set for Aug. 14.

Drennan said U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman's office informed Ingleson on Wednesday that ICE had agreed to stay her deportation for one year. She is expected to meet with department officials Friday to learn the details.

The next step is to take the pardon and the amended conviction to the Board of Immigration Appeals to ask that it reopen Ingleson's case and vacate the removal order, Drennan said.

Ingleson was an 18-year-old single mother when she stole the credit cards in 1996. She confessed when confronted about it, but wasn't prosecuted until the following year after a law took effect that expanded the categories of deportable offenses.

As part of a plea deal, Ingleson pleaded guilty to two counts of credit card theft and two counts of credit card fraud were dropped

Newport News Circuit Court Judge H. Vincent Conway ruled Wednesday that credit card fraud was a more fitting conviction. In Virginia, credit card fraud is not a so-called "aggravating felony" that triggers deportation.

"Judge Conway's decision today constitutes another step along that long and intricate process that we are pursuing in order to have Kathryn relieved of the specter of deportation so that she can get on with her life," Drennan said.

Since her conviction, Ingleson has worked at a packaging company, kept a clean record and raised her two children, ages 18 and 9, he said.

After-hours messages left for officials with ICE and Wittman's office were not immediately returned.

Drennan said Ingleson would love to become a naturalized citizen, although she fears the conviction that remains on her record may hamper that.

"She earnestly and fervently desires to become an American citizen," he said. "The issue of whether she will be in a position to do that is yet another legal challenge that needs to be met, but again we are cautiously optimistic."

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