A woman who had been legally adopted by an American couple could be sent back to her birth country.
Patrick and Soo-Jinn Schreiber of Lawrence, Kansas, officially adopted Hyebin Schreiber, who’s originally from South Korea, when she was 17. The adoption was legally recognized under Kansas state law.
However, due to a legal loophole on her age at adoption, Hyebin, now 20, could be deported. And the family has filed a civil suit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“I belong here. I have family here. That’s where I should be. This is my home,” Hyebin told KCTV5 in Kansas City
Hyebin, a junior at the University of Kansas, came to the U.S. on a student visa when she was 15 years old after dealing with some family issues back in South Korea, KSHB in Kansas City reported. Patrick, a military veteran, is Hyebin’s biological uncle and had wanted to adopt her then. But the family postponed the process while he was deployed in Afghanistan for a year.
After the couple completed the adoption, Hyebin received a Kansas birth certificate and the family had assumed her immigration status would not pose any issues. But later on, the Schreibers discovered that their daughter would not be eligible for U.S. citizenship regardless of her birth certificate because of immigration law.
“It wasn’t until we applied for her citizenship, or a path to citizenship, is when we found out from [USCIS] that because we failed to adopt her prior to age 16, she would not be granted citizenship,” Patrick told KSHB.
What’s more, a state provision stipulates that a birth certificate from a foreign-born adoption does not guarantee U.S. citizenship. So Hyebin, who’s currently on a student visa, will have to leave the United States after she graduates from college, Military Times reported.
USCIS declined to comment on this case.
Patrick told Military Times that being unaware of the age policy is his “biggest mistake in life.” He now wishes he’d filed the adoption papers sooner.
“In my 27 years in the Army, we’re taught selfless service, but that’s probably one time I should have put my family ahead of the Army,” he told KSHB.
According to Military Times, if Hyebin is sent back to South Korea, the family will likely opt to move to the country so they won’t have to be separated from their daughter.
In the meantime, the couple awaits U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson’s decision on their lawsuit.