A Minneapolis woman with ties to Duluth but whose citizenship status has been called into question appeared via satellite television at a federal hearing in Fargo, N.D. on Thursday.
Peggy Miechkota has been held in the Grand Forks County Correctional Center since Oct. 17 after being arrested by federal immigration officials near her home in Minneapolis.
A federal judge will set a hearing to determine Miechkota's citizenship within 10 working days, said Miechkota's sister, Brenda Hamilton of International Falls.
Miechkota's family, including her mother Betty Miechkota of International Falls and sister Kim Haldorson of Duluth, drove to Fargo for the hearing. They had not seen Miechkota since she had been arrested.
"We saw her [via satellite] in handcuffs and shackles," Hamilton said.
According to a spokesperson from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Bloomington, Minn., Peggy Miechkota's immigration status probably came to light after Miechkota missed a deportation hearing in 2006.
But Peggy Miechkota's family and her lawyer contend that she was already a U.S. citizen.
Peggy Miechkota and her two sisters were born in Canada and moved to Minnesota in 1977 with their mother, an American citizen. Peggy Miechkota's lawyer, David Chapman of Fargo, N.D., is arguing that a 1986 amendment to the country's immigration laws should have granted her U.S. citizenship long ago. Chapman requested that her immigrant status be reopened by a federal court.
Chapman argued on Miechkota's behalf on Thursday. And although Peggy Miechkota had twice been scheduled for deportation back to Canada, on Thursday immigration officials agreed not to deport her until her citizenship status had been determined.
"We're anxious to have this over with," Haldorson said. "We're upset that it's taken so long."
About 700 Canadian citizens were deported back to Canada during 2006, said Tim Counts, public affairs officer for ICE. The office assumed a portion of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's duties after that office was dissolved in 2003.