Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another International Adoptee Discovers She Isn't A Citizen

And though she isn't facing deportation, she sues about it! She hasn't won yet, but the Court of Appeals overruled the trial court which blocked her suit based on the statute of limitations. Here's the newspaper report:
A young woman born in Mexico and adopted by a U.S. couple as a child can sue the state for mistakenly telling her parents that she automatically became a citizen when she was adopted.

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Blanca Starr can go forward with her $1 million lawsuit despite arguments from the state that the statute of limitations has passed.

"I'm ecstatic," Starr said. "I'm just really relieved."

Starr discovered her illegal status as a teenager after she tried to get a driver's permit and then spent years in limbo -- living in fear that she would be deported from her Vancouver home. Her plight made national headlines and fueled a fiery debate over immigration.

* * *

She was 2 or 3 when her biological parents or relatives sneaked her into the United States. By the time she was 4, child-welfare workers had taken her into state custody because they believed her mother was beating her and her father was doing nothing to intervene.

When she was 5, Starr was placed in the care of Lisa and Darren Catt, who were American citizens and living in Portland. The couple adopted her when she was 8. Lisa Catt said caseworkers with the Oregon Department of Human Services told her they didn't need to fill out any immigration forms because her daughter automatically had become a U.S. citizen.

That wasn't true.

* * *

Her mother filed paperwork for Starr to become a permanent resident, but after nearly two years of waiting and paying fees, they learned it was too late. Immigration policy doesn't punish minors who enter the country illegally, but Starr had already turned 18 and was subject to a three-year ban from the United States. Worse yet, she was about to turn 19, when a 10-year ban would take effect before she could apply for residency and return.

She graduated from Columbia Christian Schools, a private Northeast Portland high school, but remained at her mom's Vancouver home while her classmates went on to jobs or college.

She couldn't work legally. Her parents, who are divorced, couldn't afford college and couldn't get financial aid for her.

Then shortly before her 20th birthday, Starr received welcome news: Federal officials said she would get a temporary U visa, given to only 10,000 people a year who are victims of crimes. Starr is considered a victim of child abuse. Her visa expires in 2014.
You can read the Court of Appeals opinion here.  The ruling isn't an unqualified win for Starr.  The court disallowed some of her causes of action, and also held that the Department of Human Services had no continuing duty to ensure that her citizenship was secured.  That last creates an unfortunate precedent for the future, I'm afraid. 

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