A Brentwood contractor from Honduras wants a federal

immigration judge to use his three children to establish a new reason for

asylum - sexual abuse.

Margarito Mejia says his children should be allowed to stay in the United

States because they were abused by a relative in Honduras.

Mejia lives in the United States legally, under a rule that granted

Hondurans work permits after a 1998 hurricane. U.S. Immigration agents caught

his son, now 11, and two daughters - now 14 and 13 - sneaking across the Rio

Grande into Texas in 2005. The children were detained for two days before they

were released to await a hearing.

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Under immigration law, refugees are eligible for asylum if they have been

persecuted because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion or

membership in a particular social group. The law does not mention sexual abuse.

Judge Gabriel Videla in Manhattan postponed his decision until Oct. 10

after questioning the family as well as two lawyers for Immigration Customs

Enforcement, which wants to deport the children.

"If my children have to go, I will have no choice but to leave - I cannot

be separated from them," their father said as he left the court.

If the judge allows the children to stay, that could help set a precedent

for similar cases, legal experts say.

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"They deserve asylum because of the persecution they received in their home

country, sexually and physically," said Mejia's lawyer, David Sperling of

Huntington.

Some disagree. "It's a complete distortion of the intent of the law," said

Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a

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Washington, D.C., think tank that calls for tougher immigration rules.