Iraqi woman suspected in asylum fraud

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Federal immigration officials arrested the woman Wednesday.
By Tatiana Sanchez
SAN DIEGO — U.S. Homeland Security Investigations has arrested and filed a complaint against an Iraqi refugee, accusing the woman of fraudulently seeking immigration asylum in the United States.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, alleges that Reta Marrogi — who at times has gone by the name of Zina Hornes Oraha Delli — falsified information in an asylum application and omitted the fact that she previously had been granted refugee asylum in Germany.

Officials arrested Marrogi on Wednesday, according to Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under a question in the application asking if she or any family members had ever received legal status in another country, “the defendant answered ‘No,’ which the defendant then and there knew was false,” the complaint said.

In an interview at the federal building this month, Marrogi said she made the false statement because she “wanted to stay in America,” the complaint said.

Douglas Nelson, Marrogi’s immigration attorney, said he couldn’t discuss the matter without his client’s consent.

Marrogi faces a maximum penalty of five years in custody and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Airline records show that Marrogi took a flight from Munich to Cancun at the end of January, with a German refugee travel document listing a 1976 birth date, according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 4, Marrogi attempted to enter the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry under the name Zina Hornes Oraha Delli, the complaint said. She was barred from entering the country because she didn’t have proper documentation and was referred to an asylum officer.

Marrogi filed an application for asylum in April with the help of her immigration attorney, falsifying details about her name, birth date and when she left Iraq, according to the complaint.

She did not list any prior residences in Germany and did not mention that she was granted refugee asylum in Germany.

In an interview this month with agents from Homeland Security Services and the Border Patrol, in which Nelson was present, Marrogi said she left Iraq in 2006 with her parents and sister and that they moved to Syria for three years. The family was then granted asylum in Germany.

Marrogi turned over her German refugee travel document, which listed her true identity.

Marrogi’s arrest comes as members of the Chaldean community prepare to hold a mass at the Otay Detention Center Thursday evening, where 27 Caldean Christians from Iraq who are seeking asylum have been held for several months.

The group hopes to shed light on their detention. It’s unclear if Marrogi was one of those refugees.