- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

DALLAS — A Chinese-born woman ordered by immigration authorities to leave the country has fled to New York and hired a new defense attorney.

Nicole Isenberg claims that if she is forced to return to her homeland, she faces torture or at least forced sterilization, and that the U.S. government unfairly refused her application for permanent status.

Immigration officials say the deportation is legitimate and necessary because Mrs. Isenberg, formerly known as Yanhong Hu, lied about a prostitution conviction on official forms.

She entered the U.S. in December 1999 on a tourist visa, which was extended to July 2000.

A few weeks before she was scheduled to go back to China, she applied in California for political asylum, claiming she was afraid to return to her homeland.

What happened next is disputed. The government claims it notified Mrs. Isenberg of a hearing in California, but she didn’t appear. A Dallas immigration official then ordered her to be deported.

Mrs. Isenberg said through her New York attorney, Theodore N. Cox, that she had changed the venue of her case to Dallas and that nobody contacted her about appearing in California for the hearing.

“Her Dallas lawyer was misleadingly informed by the Dallas court that the case had been ‘closed,’” Mr. Cox said last week, “and Mrs. Isenberg did not learn of the absentia order until she was detained on December 17, 2003.”

She was apprehended as she sought a work authorization (green card) permit at the Dallas immigration office and was held for 52 days in a detention center in Haskell, Texas.

In March 2004, she married Ralph Isenberg, a Dallas real estate developer. They have a baby daughter.

Mrs. Isenberg, who once operated a massage parlor in the United States, said she is innocent of the prostitution accusation.

“She was never arrested,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Cox filed a lawsuit on behalf of his client charging that a Dallas lawyer “who had not ever once spoken to Mrs. Isenberg, and who advertised himself as a personal friend and former college roommate of [immigration counsel] Paul Hunker, conceded the prostitution charge. He was immediately discharged by the Isenbergs for that misconduct.”

Carl Rusnok, director of communications for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said the government’s actions are not personal.

“We have bent over backwards for them on a number of occasions,” he said.

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