An immigration judge today temporarily suspended a deportation order against an Iranian-born Rockville cabdriver pending a review of his case.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered Khoussrow Vaissi-Ghassabeh, 35, to his native Iran in 1971 but only recently began attempts to execute the order. Vaissi has lived in the United States illegally for 14 years and has said that he fears for his life in Iran.
U.S. Immigration Judge John F. Gossart Jr. issued a stay of the INS deportation order until he has had a chance to review the case and determine whether Vaissi's application for permanent residence here should be reconsidered.
Vaissi, under threat of deportation, agreed to leave the United States voluntarily Oct. 1. He and his wife, an American, flew to France, then to Turkey, then back to France, but were denied entry at each airport.
France refused to send Vaissi to Iran and last week French officials twice sent the couple back to insistent immigration officials in the United States.
The couple ended up spending 10 consecutive days in airport lounges and on airliners shuttling back and forth across the Atlantic in an ordeal that ended Oct. 11 when he was taken into custody and jailed here. Vaissi's 18-year-old wife, Sharon, described the experience as "a nightmare."
She said she and her husband slept on airport benches and lived with the constant fear that he would be forced to travel on to Iran.
Vaissi has been in federal custody at the Baltimore City Jail since he was returned to the United States by France Oct. 10.
An official for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees sent a letter to the INS last Friday urging reconsideration of the Vaissi case.
INS Baltimore District Director Raymond Penn has said that "outside interests" gave French authorities misinformation that led them to the decision not to send Vaissi on to Iran. An attorney for Vaissi said Iranians in France, including exiled former premier Shahpour Baktiar, urged French authorities not to send Vaissi to Iran.
Vaissi came to the United States on a one-year student visa that allowed him to attend a college in North Carolina. He chose instead to enroll at another school in violation of INS rules and was ordered deported in December 1971.
In 1981, Vaissi applied for political asylum. He was given authorization to work in the United States but never received a reply on his asylum application, according to his attorneys. INS officials said this week the asylum application was improperly filed.
During his years in this country, Vaissi worked at several Northern Virginia restaurants, and most recently, as a District cabdriver.
Vaissi was taken into custody Sept. 24 when he went to an INS office to apply for permanent residence here based on his marriage to an American citizen. The INS refused to consider Vaissi's marriage grounds for resident status because of his earlier violation of a deportation order.
David Carliner, an attorney for Vaissi, said the INS has scheduled an interview with Sharon Vaissi next week to explore whether their marriage is bona fide.