The latest heartbreaking story of immigration policies ripping families apart comes from Lawrence, Kansas, where a federal judge has ruled in favor of destroying an Army family of three.
Hyebin Schreiber moved to the United States on a student visa when she was 15, in order to escape a troubled home life back in South Korea. She moved in with her biological aunt and uncle, who promptly decided to adopt her. However, Hyebin’s father, Pat, who’s been in the U.S. Army for more than 27 years, was deployed to Afghanistan, so the family opted to wait until he returned. It wasn’t until Hyebin was 17 that the adoption was finalized.
It was a decision the family would live to regret.
“It wasn’t until we applied for her citizenship, or a path to citizenship, is when we found out from USCIS immigration that because we failed to adopt her prior to age 16, she would not be granted citizenship,” Schreiber said.
“I thought, well if Kansas recognizes it, then immigration would recognize it. And it never dawned on me that there were two different standards.”
Though Hyebin’s adoption timeline qualified her for a Kansas birth certificate, and the state considers Pat and Soo-jinn Schreiber to be her legal parents, the federal government has completely different standards.
Who is an Adopted Child Under the Immediate Relative Process?
Under this process, an adopted child is considered, for immigration purposes, to be the child (or adult son or daughter) of the adopting parent if:
- The parent adopted the child before his or her 16th birthday (or before the 18th birthday under certain circumstances as described below). You submit evidence of a full and final adoption
Note: The special circumstances noted above do not apply to Hyebin and her family, as they focus on siblings and orphan status.
As a result of what Pat Schreiber calls “this gray, murky issue,” Hyebin is left with no path to citizenship. Now a fourth-year chemical engineering student at Kansas University, she faces deportation after graduation, when her student visa will expire.
“After graduation, I should be looking for a job. Right now, I don’t know what’s going to be happening, so I’m trying to find jobs, both in (South) Korea and the United States, so it’s kind of a lot of work for me,” Hyebin said, trying not to cry.
The family filed an appeal in March, but it was denied this week by U.S. district judge Julie Ann Robinson.
In an interview in March, Pat Schreiber struggled to keep his composure as he blamed himself—and his devotion to the U.S. military—for his family’s crisis.
“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.”
A bipartisan Senate bill introduced in March by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (with co-sponsors Mazie Hirono, Amy Klobuchar, and Susan Collins) attempted to address the heartless loophole by raising the adoption requirement to age 18, but has yet to reach committee. The bill currently is listed as having a 3 percent chance of becoming law.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.