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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Couple accept affair, but immigration officials don't

Couple accept affair, but immigration officials don't

Couple accept affair, but immigration officials don't
The Fallins of Oregon, whose marriage authorities call a sham, seek a deportation reprieve
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
ASHBEL S. GREEN
David Lee Fallin says he forgives his wife, Lynda, for having an affair.

The federal government won't.

Immigration officials told the Fallins that the affair was evidence that the Central Oregon couple's marriage was a sham. And they refused to grant Lynda Fallin, a British citizen, the status she needs to remain in the United States with her husband.

Under federal law, the next step is to deport her.

Desperate to keep his marriage together, David Fallin has gone to federal court.

The Fallins say their marriage, despite what they call the "hiccup," has always been based on love.

"I love her," Fallin said in an interview. "It was just love at first sight."

Adds Lynda Fallin: "If he can forgive, why can't they?"

For the Fallins, discussing the case is difficult. They have told only their closest friends and relatives about the affair and said they are worried that publicity about their case could further disrupt their lives.

"It was a private thing," Lynda Fallin said. "It will be a shock for friends."

David Fallin, 45, is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Oregon for 30 years. He met Lynda Petrina Carol Wass, 51, in an Internet chat room. In early 2001, she came to visit him in Central Oregon, and they fell in love.

A few months later, they got married.

It was his first marriage. It was her third.

They also started the legal process to allow her to stay, filing both to make her an "immediate relative" and for her to become a permanent resident, according to their attorney, Stephen Manning.

But six months after the wedding, their marriage threatened to fall apart. Lynda Fallin had an affair while traveling. She later filed for divorce but changed her mind.

"I realized it was a mistake from the very first minute," she said. "I just missed him so much, and I wanted to come home. Everybody has a hiccup, I guess."

While the Fallins worked on their relationship, someone told immigration officials about the affair. The Fallins say they are not sure who the person was, but immigration officials apparently thought it was important.

When federal officials interviewed the Fallins in July 2002, they asked Lynda Fallin about the affair and questioned them about intimate aspects of their sex and romantic lives.

"We were just horrified," she said.

Immigration officials pointed to what they called discrepancies in the couple's records, which the Fallins explained. They did not have separate addresses; they lived together at two addresses because they were house-sitting.

"They're reading between the lines; they're not reading the lines," Lynda Fallin said. "I said we told you the truth. We said we had hiccups, but our marriage is stable now."

Federal officials took nearly a year to get back to them. In April 2003, they notified the Fallins that they intended to deny Lynda Fallin immediate relative status, saying the marriage was a "sham."

The Fallins responded by submitting more than 20 exhibits, including detailed statements from friends, colleagues and co-workers attesting to their marriage.

Federal officials were unconvinced. In October, they formally refused to classify Lynda Fallin as an immediate relative. They discounted her statement as unreliable because she had engaged in an extramarital affair.

The Fallins appealed, but an immigration appeals board turned them down in February. David Fallin filed suit in U.S. District Court in Portland May 24. He claims that federal officials' treatment of his wife violates federal immigration law.

William McNamee, director of the Portland office of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, said he could not comment on the case because of privacy rules.

No further proceedings have been scheduled.

David Fallin said he can't believe how federal officials have treated them.

"I feel they're bullying us. They're not doing us right," he said. "It's just kind of like, why can't they leave us alone?"

Lynda Fallin said federal officials could see that their marriage was real if they would simply try.

"What would I want with my age to move here? There are no reasons for me to want to be in the States except for David," she said. "They are invading our lives. We are happy. We have a really good life together."

Ashbel "Tony" Green: 503-221-8202; tonygreen@news.oregonian.com




Copyright 2004 Oregon Live. All Rights Reserved.

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