COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A juvenile court judge in Columbus, Ohio, has granted a runaway Christian convert's request to declare reunion with her Muslim parents impossible, paving the way for the girl to fight deportation.
Magistrate Mary Goodrich said Thursday that reconciliation between Rifqa Bary and her parents isn't possible before she turns 18 on Tuesday. Goodrich also said it's not in the girl's best interest to return her to her native Sri Lanka.
Bary is an illegal immigrant. The ruling allows her attorneys to file for a special immigration status to allow her to stay in the U.S. while she continues medical treatment following recent surgery for uterine cancer.
Bary fled to Florida last year saying she feared harm for her conversion. Her parents deny she would have been harmed.The immigration status of the parents, who live in the Columbus area, is unclear.
Bary underwent successful cancer surgery in May and then was scheduled for 45 weeks of chemotherapy , which would give her an "80 to 90 percent chance" she'd be fine, Omar Tarazi, an attorney for Bary's parents, told the judge.
Instead, Bary stopped the chemotherapy after two or three rounds, deciding she'd been healed, Tarazi said. In a court filing last week, the girl's parents claimed she stopped after visiting a faith healer.
"The parents are feeling helpless," Tarazi said. "They feel like this is such a critical issue that it be in writing."
Goodrich said she understood why Bary's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary of suburban Columbus, filed the request. "I've never gotten the impression they didn't care very much for their daughter," she said.
A letter from Bary's doctor recommending the 45 weeks of chemotherapy indicates she is cancer free for now according to available imaging technology, Bary's attorney, Kort Gatterdam, told the judge.
The letter also says she suffers from a rare form of cancer for which there is no standard treatment.
Rifqa Bary stopped the treatment after becoming sick and in consultation with her doctor, Gatterdam said. He disputed the faith healer allegation, saying Bary had attended a prayer conference after which she continued with surgeries and other treatment.
"Rifqa's not saying she'll never do the treatment again, that she'll never do chemo," Gatterdam said. "She'll continue working with her doctor."