COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A runaway Christian teenager who fought nearly a year to avoid reconciling with her Muslim parents finally got her wish Thursday when a judge said a reunion was impossible a mere five days before the girl's 18th birthday.
The ruling opened the door for Rifqa Bary, an undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka, to file for a special immigration status to allow her to stay in the U.S. where she's lived and gone to school since she was 5.
Her lawyers have said the status is crucial while Bary continues medical treatment following recent surgery for uterine cancer.
Magistrate Mary Goodrich said she has no authority to interpret immigration laws but decided the ability to apply for the status was in Bary's best interest.
"This Court cannot and will not determine whether or not Ms. Bary will remain in the United States after her eighteenth birthday, nor what is in her best interest after her eighteenth birthday," Goodrich wrote in the five-page ruling.
The decision granted Bary's two basic positions: reconciliation with her parents isn't possible before she becomes an adult, and it's not in her best interest to return her to her native Sri Lanka.
The immigration status of her parents, who live in the Columbus area, is unclear, although attorneys for them and Rifqa Bary have said in court the entire family is seeking legal status here.
Bary ran away to Orlando, Fla., last year with the help of a Christian pastor she met on Facebook, saying she feared harm for her conversion to Christianity.
Her parents have denied the allegation, and police in Florida and Columbus found no evidence she was in harm.