Well-known Sierra citizen journalist faces deportation
October 17, 2013
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — YubaNet founder Pascale Fusshoeller, who was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer after a traffic stop last Tuesday afternoon, was picked up by immigration authorities Friday morning.
"I went to the jail this morning to visit her, at 9 a.m., and she was already gone," said Fusshoeller's spouse, Susan Levitz, Friday afternoon.
Fusshoeller, a native of Luxembourg, reportedly was pulled over for running a stop sign. She allegedly did not have a driver's license or any ID on her and provided a false identity.
She was booked into the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on suspicion of felony false impersonation of another, as well as misdemeanor charges of giving false information to a peace officer, obstruction and driving without a license.
According to Levitz, Fusshoeller overstayed her visa almost 15 years ago so the couple could be together. They married in July and had been in the process of getting their paperwork together to get Fusshoeller her green card.
Fusshoeller tried to pass herself off as Levitz during the traffic stop, hoping they'd just write a ticket and she could be on her way — but she wound up under arrest and was reported to immigration, Levitz said.
The county jail released its hold on her after 48 hours because the District Attorney's Office had not filed any charges, paving the way for Immigration Customs Enforcement officials to pick Fusshoeller up.
Fusshoeller was able to call Levitz from the temporary detention center in Sacramento, and she has met with her attorney, Tom Johnson. She was moved again Friday afternoon to Sacramento County Jail.
"It's been only two and half days since the routine traffic violation," Levitz said. "They have her on the fast track to fly her to Luxembourg and dump her there. She has no family there, and she hasn't lived there for many years. They forced her to sign a deportation order to remove her from the country and to send her to Luxembourg with no possibility of applying to return for 10 years."
The couple operate the popular website YubaNet.com, which launched in 1999 and covers news throughout the Sierra, with a focus on Nevada County. It's gained a solid reputation due Fusshoeller's extensive wildfire coverage over the years.
According to family friend Kerri Timmer, the order of removal stated Fusshoeller will be deported within 90 days. But both Timmer and Levitz believe she will be forced to leave the country much sooner than that.
"It's ironic, given the fact that the federal government is on shutdown," Timmer said.
The lack of information is a source of frustration for Levitz, who said ICE is "fast-tracking her like a common criminal to get her out of the country. They want her out, and we don't understand why."
Johnson said he plans to file a motion to stay the deportation order in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals on Monday.
"If we can get a stay, the next hurdle would be getting her out, pending a fair hearing," Johnson said. "We would be asking a judge to make the decision rather than ICE."
If the request for the stay is denied, Fusshoeller could be deported within days because ICE is contending she is not entitled to a hearing. The best-case scenario would see Fusshoeller out of custody, pending a hearing.
Fusshoeller is "not faring well," Johnson said after meeting with her Friday. "She is deeply shaken by her custody status and very scared. Sacramento County Jail is a very difficult place to be in custody — on its very best day, it's a terrible place to be."
Nevada County has been part of Secure Communities, which uses an already-existing federal information-sharing partnership to identify illegal aliens, since January 2011.
Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of every single individual arrested and booked into custody, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, are checked against immigration records. According to ICE's website, state and local jurisdictions cannot opt out of Secure Communities.
When state and local authorities arrest and book someone into jail for a criminal offense, they routinely submit fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ICE website states. The FBI then automatically shares these fingerprints with ICE to check against immigration databases.
"If the fingerprint check reveals that an individual is not a U.S. citizen or is removable from the United States because of their criminal history, ICE takes appropriate enforcement action — prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history and other factors," the website states.
"We need to keep the pressure up," Levitz said. "We're doing everything we can to make sure (deportation) doesn't happen. The community has been writing letters, flooding (Sen. Barbara) Boxer's office with emails and calls.
"It's been an absolute outpouring of support that's astonishing, really."
— Liz Kellar is city editor for The Union, the Sun's sister paper in Grass Valley.