International Adoptive Parents Beware

Dawn Davenport


This tragic story of Kairi warns adoptive parents to insure that they get the right citizenship documents for their children.

This tragic story of Kairi warns adoptive parents to insure that they get the right citizenship documents for their children.

Life shouldn’t be this hard.  Kairi Shepherd was abandoned in an Indian orphanage at birth.  She was adopted at 3 months, but her mom died of cancer when she was eight.  I’m sure the best of intentions were meant by all, but she ended up being passed around between older siblings as she grew up.  When she was 17 she became addicted to methamphetamine. She forged a check in order to support her addiction and was arrested and convicted of felony check forgery. She served several months in jail and was placed on probation. She is now facing likely deportation back to India because US law allows deportations of legal permanent residents convicted of nonviolent crimes.  This would not have been possible if her mother had not made the huge mistake of failing to file for her legal citizenship after she was adopted.  Unfortunately, she missed qualifying for automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act by a few months.  Kari has since been diagnosed with rapidly progressing multiple sclerosis, and is losing the use of her hands. Life shouldn’t be this hard. It seems that India, or at least some of the news media in India, agree using phrases such as “America want to dump Kairi” and “heart wrenching” to describe this story.

Warning to Adoptive Parents about US Citizenship for Your Kids

All internationally adoptive parents need to learn from Kari’s tragedy. You MUST have proof of citizenship for your children.  Not only to prevent tragedies like what is happening to Kari, but also because, for better or worse, proof of citizenship is being required more and more often for more and more circumstances, such as social security, Medicaid, employment, college admission, scholarships, voting, entering the military, and obtaining a driver’s licenses.

The type of visa your child was  issued when entering the US at the time of her adoption will determine what steps you need to take to acquire U.S. citizenship.  As of January 20, 2004, when a child enters the United States on an IR-3 or IH-3 visa, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will mail a Certificate of Citizenship (COS) directly to you within 45 days.  They sometimes slip up and no COS is mailed.  If your child entered the United States before January 2004, or entered on an IR-4 or an IH-4 visa, you will not automatically receive a COC and will have to apply for one from the USCIS when the qualifications are met.  You must file USCIS form N-600.  The current fee  is $550.00.

There are only two documents which constitute tangible evidence of citizenship: a Certificate of Citizenship or a U.S. passport.  In my opinion, you need both.  The Certificate of Citizenship indicates the date of citizenship and it never expires.  However, it is not a document many people are familiar with; therefore, your child will likely have to answer lots of questions if they have to present this document to prove their US citizenship.  Also the certificates can take 6-12 months to receive.  A US passport must be renewed, but it is commonly accepted as proof of citizenship and renewal is fast and easy.  I think every internationally adopted child needs both their COC (safely tucked away in a safe deposit box) and a passport.

Can You Help Kairi?

Some in the adoption community have rallied around Kari.  They report that the attorney who has been helping her knows nothing about immigration. He has done his best, but what needs to be done now is beyond his knowledge and ability. They need an immigration attorney who is willing to take the case pro bono.  Her supporters believe she has a good chance for a Stay of Deportation if they can find someone who can file it. THEY NEED SOMEONE TO MAKE SOME NOISE IN SALT LAKE CITY IMMEDIATELY. A pro bono legal team is now in place.  They still need other assorted help, especially from adoptive families in Utah. If you know anyone, please send them the link to this blog. They can email Chris Futia (cfutia at aol dot com).

People with Multiple Sclerosis cannot tolerate heat.  Kari’s medications are not readily available in India. She is indigent, and there is no safety net in India. No Medicaid. Even basic medical care will be beyond her means. Life shouldn’t be this hard.

PS: I’m not an immigration attorney so please speak with your adoption agency or immigration attorney if you have specific questions about US Citizenship.

Image credit: thunder

22/05/2012 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 3 Comments

3 Responses to International Adoptive Parents Beware

  1. Avatar Anon says:

    We immediately applied for (and quickly received) our daughters COC after finalization but have been dragging our feet on the passport. As best I can tell, we have to submit the COC as proof of citizenship to get the passport itself, and the prospect of losing that scares me. Does anyone know if there is any other documentation we can submit instead of COC? I always considered the passport as secondary evidence of citizenship – we plan on getting it for travel reasons – but I’m nervous about letting that COC out of my sight.Thoughts?

  2. Dawn – thank you. Kari is only one of quite a few international adoptees who have been or are facing deportation lately. So far it is only the ones who tangled with the law, but with the ever tightening of security it will become problematic for many, when they are asked to prove citizenship and can’t and find out they aren’t.

    None of the adoption organizations appear concerned enough to use their lobbying powers to get some type of exception built the law for the adoptees whose parents screwed up and didn’t finish obtaining citizenship. I am not an expert but it seems to hinge on 18 as the magic age where once passed it is too late to complete citizenship through the adoption process. Really when was the last time a 17 year old thought about whether they were citizens or not…

    I would also like to point out that Kari and others like her are being deported / will be deported back to a country US citizens removed them from – they have no ties, no legal family, no knowledge of the language, culture, – they are just being abandoned one more time. Forever isn’t really forever.

    I would also recommend ALL parents of adopted child obtain passports for their children even those born in the US. Changes happened after 9/11 to get your first passport an amended birth certificate dated more than a year after birth, is not considered primary evidence of citizenship. They have built in rules for adopted children but that ends at age 18. After 18 you need to provide proof of your name change that the government seals away from you if you are an adult adoptee (catch 22 – even more reason to support adoptee rights). There is no reason to not expect the rules to become even more extreme so get the passport before age 18 for ANY adoptee.

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