17 Year Old Rifqa Bary, convert to Christianity, who ran away to Florida from her abusive Muslim father in Ohio because she feared he would honor kill her for converting from Islam, has been ordered back to Ohio.
Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Ohio teenager who fled to Orlando nearly three months ago, will return to her home state and foster care there, Florida and Ohio judges decided Tuesday. Orange County Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson ruled that an Ohio court has jurisdiction over the 17-year-old girl and that matters need to be handled there.
But Dawson refused to relinquish Florida’s immediate emergency jurisdiction because of two issues, including Rifqa’s immigration status, a topic that prompted banter between attorneys and a scolding from the judge.
Rifqa’s family is from Sri Lanka. Her parents have told the Orlando Sentinel they moved to the United States in 2000. Dawson twice has ordered the parents to hand over the teen’s immigration documents, and he asked again Tuesday. Rifqa’s guardian ad litem, Krista Bartholomew, told the judge it was vital the Barys and their respective lawyers do so. Why? “As it appears right now, there is a high chance that this child is not legally in this country and has not legally been in this country for quite an extensive time frame,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew, who is also a lawyer, raised the possibility that Rifqa could be forced to return to Sri Lanka. She doesn’t know Rifqa’s exact residency status. Orlando immigration lawyer Gail Seeram said that if Rifqa’s parents are in the country legally, so is their daughter. The law says children of naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents and holders of unexpired visas fall under their parents’ classification.
Rifqa’s Orlando attorney, John Stemberger, told the court she wants to stay in Florida. Her immigration status is “very critical” and Rifqa fears being returned to Sri Lanka, he said, because she is at risk of being killed, harmed or being placed in an insane asylum in Sri Lanka.
“This is a very, very important issue,” Stemberger said. “The reason that Rifqa left [Ohio] is because her parents threatened to send her back to Sri Lanka.” ORLANDO SENTINEL