Here is an update on the case of Rifqa Bary, who fled from her Ohio home in fear for her life after her father discovered that she had converted from Islam to Christianity, from her close friend Jamal Jivanjee:
RIFQA BARY UPDATE — it is time to speak boldly and plainly. (The facts are trustworthy and reliable)
Dear friends & supporters of Rifqa Bary,
It is with much sadness and concern that I write this update to you about the latest developments regarding Rifqa Bary’s situation. On Monday, April 5th, there was another hearing regarding Rifqa Bary’s situation in the Franklin County Juvenile court in central Ohio. This hearing was an absolute disaster for Rifqa’s dire immigration situation.
As you may know, Rifqa’s family in not in the U.S. legally. As a result, Rifqa’s attorney’s entire legal strategy has been to secure dependency of the state of Ohio for her so that she can remain in foster care until she is 18 and pursue permanent residency status as a minor. According to a law passed during the Bush administration, minors who are declared to be a dependant of the state are eligible for a very special dependency proceeding. The official name of this dependency proceeding is called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which would allow Rifqa legal permanent residency in the U.S. In order to obtain SIJS, a court order is needed by the juvenile court judge stating that reunification is no longer possible, and that Rifqa would be in danger if she were to return to her home country of Sri-Lanka.
While this sounds like a good strategy, what has actually occurred has been the exact opposite of what Rifqa’s entire legal team has said it was going to be. They simply have gotten it wrong every time. Many well qualified immigration attorneys have said that Rifqa has a strong case for asylum, yet Rifqa’s legal team has absolutely refused to listen to any other council, and has refused to pursue the asylum process in addition to SIJS. They have put all their eggs in the SIJS basket, so to speak. This has been a major mistake by Rifqa’s legal team. They told Rifqa that she has nothing to worry about, and that SIJS is a foregone conclusion. Yesterday’s (April 5’Th) court developments have proved them wrong yet again. When will we wake up and smell the coffee?
For the last several months, myself and many others have openly questioned Rifqa’s legal team’s strategy. I have advised Rifqa to either allow another well qualified attorney to join her case, or to replace her attorneys altogether. I have had good cause for doing this for a variety of different reasons. As a result, I have been labeled as untrustworthy and Rifqa was told to no longer have any contact with me. Whether myself, or others, are trustworthy is not what I would like to debate today. It is not important. Who I am and what my motivations are simply do not matter. This is not about me. What are more important are the facts.
I have been told that I should not criticize her legal team because they have been working hard and there are things that I do not know. I wonder, does anyone know anything? I do not want to debate what I don’t know, nor would I like to make speculations as well. What I would like to do is look at what we DO know. It is always best to make decisions and assertions based on what we DO know. Here is what we DO know:
1. Rifqa’s legal team told her, and others, that she would be declared by the court to be a ‘long term’ dependent of the state shortly after she arrived in Ohio (long term dependent means reunification is not possible).
It has been 6 months, and she still has not been declared to be a long term dependent of the state. This is needed for SIJS immigration. As a matter of fact, her attorneys signed on to a case plan that calls for reunification. This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what needed to happen. This case plan is now in place and the judge demanded that all parties pursue counseling as the case plan calls for. This actually happened last month and that is why Rifqa has yet to be declared a ‘long term’ dependent of the court. The judge has said that the case plan must be followed and given a chance to work.
2. The hearing that happened yesterday (April 5) was when Rifqa’s attorneys again led others to believe the judge would declare that reunification is not possible. This would make her a long term dependent of the court. Unfortunately, the judge refused to do this again at this latest hearing! Her attorneys were wrong again, and the horrendous case plan continues!
3. After last month’s hearing, I was criticized for saying that Rifqa was running out of time regarding her immigration status. Her attorneys have put all their eggs in the SIJS basket, and have refused to file for asylum. She needs a court order from the judge to apply for SIJS and this court order must be obtained from the judge before the court loses jurisdiction over her when she turns 18 on August 10’th. Now, the clock is her enemy, so to speak. Rifqa’s attorneys again mistakenly led others to believe that at this month’s hearing, the judge would address the immigration and SIJS issue and allow them to move forward on her immigration status.
At this latest hearing Rifqa’s attorney, Angela Lloyd, spoke up in the court room and specifically said that time was running out for Rifqa in regards to her immigration. Rifqa’s parent’s Muslim CAIR attorney objected and claimed that her parents were taking care of their entire family’s immigration situation, and this includes Rifqa. The judge denied Angela Lloyd’s motion to address immigration. Angela Lloyd objected due to the fact that Rifqa’s parents have no right to file for immigration status for her because she is not in their custody. The judge again refused to address the immigration issue without a hearing regarding the Muslim attorney’s objections. Angela Lloyd asked for an expedited hearing (due to the time factor regarding her immigration), and the judge said that she was not sure if she was going to even grant this hearing at all! (There was a person in the court room that relayed this information to me.)
Basically, Rifqa’s attorneys were wrong yet again. Many have predicted this very thing would happen, yet her own attorneys did not see this coming. There has been absolutely no progress regarding Rifqa’s immigration. She will be 18 in 4 months & has been in the court system for the last 8 months, yet the immigration process has not even begun yet! This is unacceptable, and this puts Rifqa at undue risk for deportation when she turns 18. Rifqa’s attorneys also refuse to file for Asylum for her. Each day that they wait puts her at greater risk.
4. The threat that Rifqa has faced as a result of abuse at home is unknown to the court because Rifqa’s attorneys have not demanded an investigation into her abusive past and home life. This information is also needed for SIJS and is not there because there has been no investigation.
5. The threat that Rifqa faces as a result of her conversion from Islam to Christianity is unknown to the court because her attorneys have avoided a trial where the evidence would have come out. Instead, they talked Rifqa into making a deal with the CAIR attorney to avoid trial by admitting to being an ‘unruly’ child and signing on to a case plan calling for reunification with her parents! This is now the very reason why the judge refuses to declare that reunification is not possible. This deal was simply to obtain a temporary dependency that does not help her in any way.
Many have asked if Rifqa can fire her attorneys. The answer is yes. They have been privately retained, and they can be replaced if needed. Many have asked if there are Christian attorneys who understand the spiritual nature of this case and who have experience in these types of cases that would even come alongside and give advice or become actively involved in her case. The answer is yes. Many great attorneys have offered their help free of charge and have expressed their grave concerns with the current strategy. Many have asked if Rifqa can file for asylum now without a court order and as a minor. The answer is yes. This has been done by many people before. Several immigration attorneys have said that she has a strong case for asylum, and they have offered to help Rifqa file for Asylum free of charge.
I have said this before and I will say it again. This case is entirely spiritual in nature. I am convinced that Rifqa’s own legal team’s blindness regarding the threat that Rifqa faces, as well as their legal blunders, are endangering her life as much as the Muslim CAIR attorneys are. Rifqa herself will have to be the one to take charge over her own defense if anything will change. She is the only one with authority to do anything. I ask all who read this to set aside time to fast and pray for Rifqa. I also would like to ask all those who are in contact with her to speak the truth plainly and boldly about what is occurring. Sugar coating the truth, or avoiding upsetting realities will only hurt her in the long run. The facts speak for themselves.
UPDATE: Pamela Geller responds to Rifqa’s attorney John Stemberger here.