Woman from India, Adopted by a U.S. Citizen As an Infant, May Face Deportation Due to a Legal Technicality

Nanda Devi

A woman, originally from India, who acquired legal permanent residence through adoption by a U.S. citizen now faces deportation because of a series of technicalities in U.S. immigration law. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Utah recently ruled that the federal government could proceed with its efforts to deport her. Her case revolves around an unfortunate series of missed dates and premature filings, demonstrating the critical importance of understanding and following the strict timelines set forth by the government’s immigration authorities.

Kairi Shepherd was a three month-old orphan in India when Erlene Shepherd adopted her and brought her to Utah in 1982. She was the youngest of eight children Erlene Shepherd had adopted. She obtained legal permanent residence through her adoptive mother. Erlene Shepherd filled out the application to obtain naturalization for Kairi, but died of cancer before she could file it. Kairi was eight years old at the time. She never legally obtained citizenship due to the timing of a particular statute, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, adoptive parents had to petition for naturalization of an adopted child before the child turned twenty-one years of age. Under the new law, children born abroad automatically gain citizenship when they are legally adopted by a U.S. citizen, but it only applies to children under the age of eighteen. The law took effect on February 27, 2001, meaning that the oldest children who could obtain citizenship through its provisions were born on February 27, 1983. Kairi Shepherd was too old by about a year.

At the age of seventeen, Kairi Shepherd was dealing with a drug habit, and she was arrested for allegedly writing a bad check. She was later convicted of felony check forgery, a deportable offense. The government initiated deportation proceedings against her. She claimed automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship, offering her birth certificate and proof of adoption. The court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction on February 18, 2011.

The government quickly realized, based on documents Kairi Shepherd had already provided, that she did not meet the criteria for citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act. They re-filed a deportation petition the day after the dismissal, taking what her lawyers called a “second bite at the apple.” The immigration judge ruled that his earlier ruling prevented the government from relitigating the case. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) reversed and remanded the case, and the immigration judge ordered Shepherd deported. Shepherd appealed the decision directly to the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit dismissed Shepherd’s appeal on May 8, 2012, ruling that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because, by not first appealing to the BIA again, she had not exhausted her administrative remedies. It held that it did have jurisdiction, however, to address the question of her “alienage/citizenship,” and concluded that she is an alien. Her only remaining legal option now is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The government of India has suggested that it might help her if she is deported, since she has no information on any roots in India.

The United States immigration system is often complicated, confusing, and rife with politics. To schedule a confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced Ohio immigration visa lawyer who can help guide you through the system, contact Gus Shihab online or at (800) 625-3404 today.

More Blog Posts:

Over 3,100 Arrested, Including 63 in Ohio and 67 in Michigan, in Nationwide ICE Immigration Sweep, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2012

Photo credit: ‘Nanda Devi’ by Michael Scalet from India (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.