February 13, 2001
By Tom Howard
Gazette Staff Writer
German citizen Wolfgang von Eitzen has scored a victory in his four-year battle to avoid deportation.
Josephine von Eitzen, Wolfgang’s wife of four years, has received a Petition for an Alien Relative, called an I-130 petition, from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The I-130 process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to bring family members from other countries to live permanently in the United States.
Von Eitzen said he will fill out the papers needed to obtain his green card.
Von Eitzen has become well known in Billings as an outspoken critic of its public schools.
While the successful I-130 petition is a significant development in his immigration case, von Eitzen said Monday that he has other hurdles to clear before he would be allowed to remain in the United States.
Von Eitzen is still fighting a deportation order from the INS. Von Eitzen appealed last year to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but in January a three-judge panel refused to consider the case.
Although he stands a better chance to remain in this country because of his successful I-130 petition. Von Eitzen says it’s still possible that the INS could move to deport him.
“We only hope it will be over soon and we’ll have a chance to get back into our life together,” von Eitzen said Monday. “When we received the letter from the INS on Friday, we started to think about the future.”
INS officials couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
Josephine von Eitzen sought the I-130 petition in 1997, shortly after they were married. It was denied by the INS in 1999, but the von Eitzens appealed. As part of the process, the von Eitzens provided additional information to prove that they have a bona fide marriage.
“We live together, take vacations together, own and operate businesses together and build our dream home together, invest together, have a valid marriage recognized by the state of Montana,” Josephine von Eitzen wrote in a letter supporting the I-130 petition.
“The idea that they thought that their marriage was anything but bona fide was ridiculous. They had been together for years,” said Kenneth F. Eichner, a Denver attorney who worked on the case.
In a brief letter dated Feb. 7, INS District Director Harry Thomas said the case had been reopened, the previous denial was set aside and the I-130 petition was approved.
Von Eitzen said he doesn’t know why the long-delayed I-130 application was approved.
“The only thing we’re interested in is getting over lives back. We plan to file our papers and supply our fees and take care of this as smoothly as possible,” von Eitzen said.
Von Eitzen worked in the United States legally for nearly 20 years under a program that covers foreigners who invest in businesses. He lost his legal status after the business failed, INS officials said last year.