A woman from Ireland, who married her girlfriend in Collin County last summer, was arrested last week and is facing immediate deportation.
Jenny Nolan entered the U.S. on a visa waiver in April 2015. She lived with her girlfriend Lily Flores and the couple married in July, the week after the Obergefell marriage equality decision. The couple lives with Penny Abbott in her home in Plano.
The couple began work to obtain Nolan’s green card, according to Abbott.
Because Flores is a student, Homeland Security required Nolan to guarantee additional financial support.
Abbott signed paperwork guaranteeing the additional support including a place to live.
Nolan was told to reapply and given no deadline for getting her application in. Because she had several questions and was trying to get her application correct, she even went to an immigration office to make sure she was answering all questions on the form correctly.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, Homeland Security special agents appeared at Abbott’s house and arrested Nolan.
Abbott said she immediately hired an attorney.
The attorney assured her they’d have a few days before she’d be transferred from Dallas to an ICE facility.
Instead, her transfer began immediately. Rather than the Johnson County Detention Center south of Fort Worth that most people arrested in Dallas are sent to, she was transferred to Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell.
Rolling Plains, about 200 miles west of Dallas near Abilene, is a facility where people who have committed crimes are taken. Because she came to the U.S. on a visa waiver, Nolan was told she has no right to go before an immigration judge, and that she would be deported this week.
As she was being checked into the facility, the officer looking at her paperwork kept asking her, “Why are you here?” Abbott said Nolan told her in a phone call.
Nolan had no answer for the officer.
She thought she was doing everything right.
She has no criminal background that Abbott or her attorney can find.
John Nechman, a Houston immigration attorney and founder of Immigration Equality, said the case is strange.
When someone arrives on a visa waiver, that person can’t change status — with exceptions, Nechman said. If that person marries within 60 days, Homeland Security views that as fraud. But Nolan and Flores married after 90 days.
If Nolan was picked up for overstaying her visa waiver, that deportation wouldn’t be handled as a criminal case.
But if that was the problem, the case would be assigned, a warrant would have issued and Nolan sent a notice to appear.
That didn’t happen.
Nechman said Nolan’s name could match a name on a terrorist list and it could be a case of mistaken identity.
He said agents showing up indicate Nolan is being treated as someone in violation of law.
Abbott wonders if Homeland Security is refusing to recognize Nolan and Flores’ marriage.
Nolan’s attorney has not yet returned a call. Look for more information on this story in this Friday’s Dallas Voice.