In late May, a Utah woman faced deportation proceedings even though she was adopted as a baby into the United States. The reason? Her mother died before she could finish the adoption paperwork.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered the woman’s undocumented status when she was charged with, and pled guilty to, forgery for falsifying checks.
Unfortunately, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that the woman could be deported.
Older Adoptees Falling Through the Cracks
There is a law in place to prevent this exact situation from happening. The 2000 law grants automatic citizenship to children adopted from other countries as long as they were younger than 18 years of age on February 27, 2001. Yet, older adoptees remain legal residents. This means that, like other permanent residents, they can be deported for committing a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony.
While this is a rare situation, the fact that it happens at all is alarming. Many of these adoptees do not know they are not citizens until they face deportation to countries some of them have never even visited since their adoptions.
A recent article in Multi-American, a Southern California Public Radio website, highlights similar cases:
- A 29-year-old El Salvador-born adoptee, adopted by U.S. parents at six months of age, was sent back to El Salvador. He did not speak Spanish.
- A 50-year-old Japanese-born adoptee, adopted by a Filipino American and Mexican American when one year old, was sent back to Japan. “I grew up thinking I was half Filipino and half Mexican. They could send me to Mexico and I would get by. I can speak a little Spanish. But Japan?” he asked.
- A 26-year-old Brazilian-born adoptee was deported to Brazil where he was murdered.
These are only a few of the tragic cases of adopted U.S. children who face deportation back to countries where they know very few, if any, people. If you find yourself in this situation or face deportation for any other reason, speak with an experienced immigration lawyer to learn what options you have for staying home, in the United States.
Source: Multi-American, “How does an adoptee get deported? More easily than one might think,” Leslie Berestein Rojas, May 29, 2012.
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