Immigration judge orders former Dayton restaurant owner deported, but she’s fighting to stay

A U.S. immigration judge has ordered the deportation of former Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian, although Christian has filed an appeal to that order while she remains in custody in the Butler County Jail.

“Eva Christian, an unlawfully present citizen of Germany, was issued a final order of removal by a federal immigration judge” on Dec. 1, Shawn Neudauer, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, told the Dayton Daily News.

“Her appeal of that decision remains pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals,” Neudauer said.

The immigration court system operates differently from other federal courts, with more limited public access to court filings and proceedings. A separate federal lawsuit that Christian filed in U.S. District Court in an attempt to be freed from the Butler County Jail because of a medical condition was rejected by a magistrate judge earlier this month.

Although she has lived in the U.S. for decades, Christian, formerly of Washington Twp., is not an American citizen. She was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship. She faces deportation now because she was convicted of multiple felony counts related to insurance fraud and served an eight-year sentence in the Ohio prison system, completing that sentence in September 2020. Those with a Green Card and permanent resident status can have that status revoked for serious criminal activity and convictions.

Christian founded and owned the now-defunct Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) for nearly 15 years in Dayton’s Oregon District, in space that now houses Lily’s Dayton. She also founded a second restaurant, Cena Brazilian Steakhouse, which was located in front of the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp. She was convicted in May 2012 of five criminal counts after masterminding a scheme to hire others in 2009 to set her Dayton Mall restaurant on fire, and later trying to set it on fire herself; and also of staging a break-in at her Washington Twp. residence, all in order to collect insurance money.

In her request to be released from jail — filed last fall by Dayton attorney Karen Denise Bradley on Christian’s behalf — Christian, 52, said she had been diagnosed with chronic asthma and had been treated for the condition since 2014. She said her confinement in the Butler County Jail increases her likelihood of contracting COVID-19, which, due to her asthma, could lead to “severe injury or death,” Bradley wrote in her petition to U.S. District Court. Her incarceration and increased risk of disease and death means that her Fifth Amendment rights of due process are being violated, and she should be released immediately, according to Christian and her attorney.

Credit: for USA TODAY

Credit: for USA TODAY

But in a decision handed down March 12, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz rejected the request, ruling that Christian “has not established that she has an enhanced risk of death of severe illness from COVID-19.

“While she pleads that she has severe asthma,” Merz wrote, there was no evidence submitted to support the claim. In addition, Merz said in his ruling, Christian “has not established that being confined in the Butler County Jail has significantly increased her risk of contracting the disease.”

Messages left late last week with Bradley, who represented Christian in the motion to be released from jail, were not returned as of Monday morning, March 29.

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