The "nightmare" of almost losing his wife to a deportation order is over, Georgia state Sen. Curt Thompson told FOX News on Tuesday.
Thompson’s Colombia-born wife, Sascha Herrera Thompson turned herself in to federal authorities Tuesday morning to face a deportation order that would kick her out of the country. But the judge granted a stay so the couple can file an appeal.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Thompson said. “We’ve both had nightmares during this time.”
Herrera attorney Charles Kuck, along with government lawyers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed a joint order to stay the deportation order and reopen her case after the parties agreed that Herrera may have been the victim of an unscrupulous individual posing as an immigration lawyer.
Officials are now reviewing Herrera’s claims that Tomas Vilela mishandled her immigration requests and led to her deportation order.
“This is tragically common where someone trusts and believes somebody to be a lawyer and it turns out that they are not a lawyer,” Kuck said. "They potentially defraud people. ... Part of it is greed."
While Vilela is investigated and the deportation order is reviewed, Thompson and Herrera will be interviewed by immigration officials and then will go back to the judge to ask him to terminate the deportation proceedings.
“It’s the all-clear that we were waiting for,” said Thompson, a Democrat and an attorney elected to the Georgia state Senate in 2004.
Thompson, 37, and Herrera, 28, married in April 2006 after meeting in November 2005. While their marital status would generally qualify him to sponsor her for a resident green card, Herrera's status was called into question after Vilela allegedly misled her.
Kuck claimed Vilela filed an asylum application on Herrera's behalf, but listed his address as hers on the paperwork. That caused confusion on her application and led to the deportation order. Kuck said that he went to find Vilela at his supposedly correct address, but he was gone.
Herrera feared going to jail and being deported so she went into hiding after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to her home on Nov. 28 to deport her, Kuck said. Herrera was in an undisclosed location hiding from authorities from that date until Tuesday.
“She was in a state of shock. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to live her life here with her husband,” Kuck said. “She couldn’t get her mind around it of how she could be in this situation. We sat down yesterday in person, convinced her that this was the best thing to do.”
Herrera told reporters before her Tuesday hearing that she wanted to clear her family’s name.
"I'm very nervous right now," Herrera said. "I think I'm doing the right thing. I hope my name and my husband's name is clean."
Herrera received the deportation order after repeatedly failing to appear before a judge on the asylum application filed by Vilela, Kuck said. He said Herrera was never informed about the application or the orders to appear in court.
Kuck said he filed a complaint with the state bar of Georgia to investigate Vilela.
Herrera arrived in the U.S. on a visitor visa in 2003 to study English, Thompson said. She applied for an extension through Vilela, who said he could handle her immigration paperwork, but in 2004 Herrera decided not to use his services because she had been accepted as a graduate student at Kennesaw State University, qualifying her for a student visa.
Thompson first met Herrera when she was performing in a local play. He said he went to the play several times before he mustered the courage to ask her for a date.
“Having run out of excuses to see the play, I figured I should ask her out," he said. She accepted and the rest is proverbial history.
“We’re looking forward to getting our life back normal,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t recommend this as a first year of marriage."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.