Tuesday, January 7, 2003

3 suing to stay can - for now

Estonians helped in criminal case

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Three Estonian women will be allowed to remain in Greater Cincinnati while they sue federal authorities for trying to deport them after they helped in a criminal investigation.

The women claim they helped the U.S. government prosecute their former boss after officers with the Immigration and Naturalization Service promised that their cooperation might be rewarded with U.S. citizenship.

But after their boss went to jail, the women received letters telling them to "voluntarily" leave the country. INS officials have said they promised the women nothing.

A federal judge in Covington threw out the Estonians' lawsuit in November, but he agreed last week to allow the women to remain in the United States until they have a chance to appeal his decision.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he doubted the women would succeed in their appeal, but said the case raises important questions about immigration law.

"The court does recognize that there are serious issues which will be addressed on appeal," he wrote.

The women - Elvi Parmo, Susi Ene and Mare Kutt - have 60 days to appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati.

"This means we don't have to worry about going before an immigration judge while we appeal," said the women's lawyer, Candace Crouse.

The three Estonians came to the United States in the late 1990s for temporary jobs arranged by a company in their homeland. But when they arrived, they say, they were housed in a crowded apartment and forced to work as maids seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

They later agreed to tell federal authorities about their boss, Alexandre Grunichev, a Russian who was eventually sentenced to prison.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com

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