WASHINGTON — Sharon Courtney, a Las Vegas mother of three and the wife of an Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq and returned home with traumatic injuries, is out from under the threat of deportation as an undocumented immigrant, at least for the time being.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he stepped in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of Sharon and her husband, James V. Courtney, after they stepped forward and told their story at a Capitol Hill rally in March.
As a result, Reid said, “immigration officials have deferred her deportation and she is no longer in immediate danger of being separated from her family.
“In effect, what this did was allow her to stay and care for her husband and three children, ages 16, 11 and 8,” Reid said.
After submitting an application and being called in for an interview, the Las Vegas couple were notified May 20 that Sharon was granted a deferred action status that will shield her for at least a year and has allowed her to apply for a work permit.
While the Obama administration has been following a policy of focusing deportations on lawbreakers, the Courtneys still had been walking on eggshells, plans for their future unsettled.
“We have hope right now,” Sharon Courtney said Tuesday. “We have a lot of hope and a lot of faith.”
The Courtneys had been put forward as faces behind the drive for immigration reform aimed at keeping families from being broken up through deportation. News of the Las Vegas family’s reprieve came on the day the Senate voted to start debating amendments to a landmark overhaul of immigration law.
That the wife of a 15-year U.S. Army veteran who gave up his health while fighting overseas could face deportation underscored the need for change, Reid said.
“While I was happy to help James and Sharon, it was unfortunate they needed any help in the first place,” Reid said.
Sharon, who entered the United States from Mexico when she was 15, was detained in El Paso, Texas, in 2003. She and James, both 35, had married in 2000.
After she said she unwittingly signed a document acknowledging she was in the country illegally, she was placed in “voluntary departure” status but remained in limbo while James was serving with the military.
James Courtney obtained a medical retirement last year after a military career that included three tours of duty in Iraq. He suffers from traumatic brain injury and other physical ailments, a victim of improvised explosives.
The couple told the Capitol Hill audience in March they were fearful of traveling and being stopped by authorities, although the U.S. Army stickers on the family car usually earned them wave-throughs.
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., also spoke at the rally. Afterward, Horsford got the couple in touch with an attorney who helped them navigate the system, according to Michael Flores, a Horsford community liaison in Las Vegas.
At the rally, Sharon Courtney showed certificates of appreciation she received from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the wife of a serviceman.
“I am an American military wife, and I have my awards to prove it,” she said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.