GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Immigration officials will allow a Grand Haven woman -- smuggled here from China as a sex slave -- to apply for a special visa that would keep her from being deported, her immigration attorney said.
"It means the answer to a full, long 10 years of waiting and fighting," said Cayla Roberts, 24, of Grand Haven. "It means I can drive, I can work, I can pay taxes."
Roberts said she was smuggled into the U.S. a decade ago, when she was 14, but was arrested in San Diego before she was put to work in the sex trade. The U.S. ordered her deported because she is in this country illegally.
But, immigration attorney David Koelsch said he was contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Detroit on Friday. They agreed to allow Roberts to apply for a special visa for victims of human trafficking.
Immigration officials in the past had denied that request, he said.
ICE officials in Detroit could not be immediately reached for comment.
A Target 8 investigation exposed the dangers facing Roberts if she were forced to return to China. She also toured the state, speaking at immigration rallies.
"Honestly, a lot of it was your story," Koelsch said. "We've been lobbying hard over the last few weeks and they finally agreed."
Until now, the only way Roberts could have gotten a green card to stay in the U.S. was first to return to China. But she feared a return could get her into trouble with her country, or with the smugglers who sent her here when she was 14. She also feared her father, who she said sold her to the smugglers.
Roberts, who is married to a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, graduated with honors from Grand Haven High School and recently from Western Michigan University.
"We're just elated because it seems like what we've been praying for for all these years is finally coming to fruition," said her foster mother, Bari DeWitt.
Her attorney said the special visa would allow her to apply for a green card in three years, then for full citizenship five years after that.
"It means a huge relief," Roberts said. "It means I don't have to go through the jail system in China, the re-education classes. I don't have to face the danger of facing my biological dad, and then the smugglers. I don't have to face what am I going to do in a foreign land?"
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