Boulder Daily Camera, CO
Dec 11 2004

Family's release brings relief

Judge: Armenian immigrants illegally entered country

By Kim Castleberry, Camera Staff Writer
December 11, 2004

After spending five weeks locked away in a federal detention center,
most people would have an endless list of things to do once they were
released. For Gevorg Sargsyan and his family, a nice dinner at the
Chop House was at the top of that list.

"The first thing we did was go get a good meal," said Colin Lacy,
Sargsyan's best friend who picked the family up Thursday afternoon
after they were discharged from the detention center. "Everybody was
so excited."

Lacy attends the University of Colorado, where Sargsyan was a student
until he and his family were arrested on Nov. 4 for entering the
country with the wrong kind of visa. The family's lawyer and friends
worked for weeks to get them released from the Immigration and
Customs Enforcement detention center, but the decision came
unexpectedly.

"I found out about 15 minutes before they were released," said Jeff
Joseph, the family's lawyer. "We called the ICE officer and he said
that they couldn't really answer any of our questions."

Joseph was told that the case had been re-evaluated and the family
was no longer thought to be a flight risk.

"The release does nothing to change the case," said Joseph, who is
going forward with filing for special visas so the family can stay in
the United States. Sargsyan, his brother, sister and father all were
held at the detention center in Aurora. The family has lived in the
mountain town of Ridgway for more than six years and is now back at
home.

The family could not be reached for comment Friday.

Lacy, who attended Ridgway High School with Sargsyan, and other
residents have been trying to get political support and raise money
for the family's deportation appeal in federal court. He and Sargsyan
talked all night on Thursday, but he said he's not sure what his
friend's immediate plans are.

Sargsyan was a sophomore at CU, where he was studying pre-medicine.
The 20-year-old withdrew from school after an immigration judge ruled
that the family had entered the country fraudulently using student
visas.

The circumstances behind the family's release are cloudy.

"Nobody knows who exactly made the release or why," Lacy said. "We'll
probably never know. All we know is it came from Washington."

He said reporters from The New York Times interviewed the Sargsyans
on Friday morning and the fact that the family's story was getting
national media attention might also have factored into the decision.

Family members say they were forced to flee Armenia because of the
Russian mafia and if they returned mobsters would kill them because
of alleged crimes there by a former in-law who is an American.