Tuesday, June 3, 2008

ICE: Keeping America safe from High School valedictorians

Arthur Mkoyan's 4.0 grade-point average has made him a valedictorian at Bullard High School in Fresno and qualified him to enter one of the state's top universities.

But while his classmates look forward to dorm food and college courses this fall, Arthur Mkoyan may not make it.

He is being deported.

Arthur, 17, and his mother have been ordered out of the country. By late June, they may be headed to Armenia.

Arthur hasn't seen Armenia since he was 2, and he doesn't want to return. The thin, rather shy teenager doesn't speak Armenian and barely understands the language when it's spoken to him.

"Hopefully, I can somehow stay here and continue my studies here," he said. "It would be hard if I go back."

The family fled from the old Soviet Union and has been seeking asylum since 1992. The appeals ran out this year.

He and his mother, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job and income she needs, were given an extension to June 20 so Arthur could join his class at the ceremony, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

… Arthur's father, Ruben Mkoian, ran a general store and worked as a police officer in the then-Soviet Republic of Armenia, where he was threatened by independence supporters as the Soviet Union was breaking up, Arthur's mother said. His store was broken into and the family home was burned down, she said.

Seeking a safer life, Mkoian left for Fresno in December 1991 and soon applied for political asylum. Mkoian, who spells his name differently from his son, chose Fresno because he had a close friend here.

Arthur and his mother spent three years in Russia before joining Mkoian in Fresno in 1995.

Mkoian worked for a carpet business and later as a truck driver. But winning asylum turned out to be difficult. Asylum seekers must prove they would suffer severe persecution if they return to their country.

Mkoian's asylum application, which included his family, ultimately was rejected. He appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which ruled against him in January.

Immigration officers picked up Mkoian, now 46, in April at his Fresno home, according to his family. He is now in a detention center in Arizona.


This is just another case, in a long list, for why the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act was so important. This young man should have been heading off to college this fall to further his already successful academic career … instead he'll be shipped off to a country he doesn't even know and an uncertain future.

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