Chef Chai can remainBeth Ann Nishijima was relieved after hearing her close friend, restaurateur Chai Chaowasaree, will not be deported Monday.
in Hawaii for now
Immigration officials allow15 years of INS troubles
him to stay until an appeals
court rules on deportation
By Rosemarie Bernardo
"He's just like a brother to me," said Nishijima, of Nori's Saimin and Snacks on the Big Island, who's known Chaowasaree for nearly 10 years. "We'll see what happens from here."
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials voluntarily decided yesterday not to deport Chaowasaree, a Thai national, until a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rules on Chaowasaree's emergency motion for stay of deportation. The panel is expected to make a decision by March 16.
Chaowasaree's attorney, James Stanton, filed the emergency motion with the 9th Circuit on Wednesday. It appealed a federal district court order that denied Chaowasaree's move to block the deportation.
"The court has indicated their willingness to consider the case," Immigration District Director Donald Radcliffe said yesterday.
But immigration attorneys are planning to file a brief in opposition to the request, Radcliffe said.
Chaowasaree is being held at the Oahu Community Correctional Center. He has been held since Feb. 13.
Chaowasaree owns Chai's Island Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace and Singha Thai in Waikiki, employing more than 70 people.
He has undergone a long battle with the Immigration Service. Deportation proceedings began when his marriage to Victoria Dubray was not considered bona fide after immigration officials received conflicting information about addresses, bank accounts and their relationships with others during their interview.
His problems intensified after he left Hawaii on Jan. 20, 2000, pending an appeal of deportation, to visit his ill father in Bangkok. Chaowasaree believed it was permissible to leave the United States after he was issued a temporary green card by an immigration official.
When he returned 16 days later, officials told him his status in the country was terminated.
Nishijima collected more than seven pages of signatures in support of Chaowasaree staying in Hawaii.
John Delaney, manager of Chai's Island Bistro, collected more than 1,000 signatures.
"I'm just elated," Delaney said when he learned of the recent motion. "It's a ray of light and deservedly so. ... But it's not over yet."
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Chai Chaowasaree's 15-year entanglement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service is detailed in federal court documents:
span 15 years
1985Chaowasaree enters the United States in August as a non-immigrant visitor.
1986In October, he marries Victoria Dubray, a U.S. citizen, and is granted conditional permanent resident status.
1988Chaowasaree opens Singha Thai restaurant on Ala Moana Boulevard.
1989In April, Chaowasaree and Dubray petition to make him a permanent resident. The INS interviews them in July and September.
1991June: The INS denies the petition, "finding that the marriage was a sham," and begins deportation proceedings.
October: An immigration judge rules against the INS, saying that under federal law, it should have ruled within 90 days. The agency had taken 20 months.
1993The Immigration Court reverses the ruling in December, agreeing with the INS that Chaowasaree was "deportable," but allows him to stay pending an appeal.
1999Chaowasaree opens Chai's Island Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
2000January: Chaowasaree goes to Thailand to visit his sick father. Before leaving, he contacts the INS' Honolulu office and is told he could travel. He is given a temporary green card.
Feb. 5: Upon returning, Chaowasaree is told by immigration officials at the airport that he would not be allowed into the country. They say the approval he'd been given was in error. He is allowed entry, however, because of questions about his status.
March 1: The Board of Immigration Appeals grants the government's motion to dismiss Chaowasaree's appeal because he had left the country while it was pending. Chaowasaree fights that decision up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
2001Jan. 12: With all appeals exhausted, the INS tells Chaowasaree to report for deportation on Feb. 13.
Jan. 23: Chaowasaree holds a gala second anniversary celebration for Chai's Island Bistro. The party is taped by KHON television as part of its "Hawaii's Kitchen" series.
Feb. 13: Chaowasaree is arrested. His lawyers file a request for a temporary restraining order and a writ of habeas corpus to delay his deportation.
Feb. 17: U.S. District Judge David Ezra grants an emergency stay allowing Chaowasaree to remain in the country until Monday, pending further court proceedings.