LANSING, Kan. - A retired U.S. Army veteran and his wife are fighting to stop the deportation of their adopted daughter after he missed the deadline to make her a naturalized U.S. citizen while he was deployed in Afghanistan.
Army Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber and his wife Soo Jin, who met while he was deployed in South Korea in the 1990s, adopted Soo Jin’s niece Hyebin in 2012 when she was 15.
In 2013, when Schreiber served a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, he missed the deadline to apply for Hyebin’s U.S. citizenship. He and his wife then completed her adoption when he returned to their home in Kansas under the assumption that Hyebin could still become a citizen once it was finalized.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, adopted children from foreign countries have until the age of 16 to become a naturalized citizen. By the time Schreiber and his wife completed the adoption, Hyebin was 17.
When Schreiber tried to apply for Hyebin’s citizenship, he was denied.
He said he was then directed to try and obtain a visa for Hyebin. He said he was told that she could be classified as an immediate relative in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to legal documents.
But USCIS denied the application under the argument that Hyebin was older than 16 when the Schreibers adopted her and therefore could not be an immediate relative.
When Schreiber submitted an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the board argued that a biological connection is required between a parent and child in order for Hyebin to be considered a “legitimated” child, according to documents.
In September 2018, Schreiber and his wife fought that issue in the U.S. District Court of Kansas but lost, which meant Hyebin would need to leave the U.S. after graduating from college.
Hyebin is currently studying to become a chemical engineer at the University of Kansas and is on a student visa. She is set to graduate in December.
As the deadline nears, Schreiber and his wife are appealing the decision.
He’s receiving help from lawyer Rehka Sharma-Crawford, the Children and Family Law Center of the Washburn University School of Law and various other lawyers.
In a legal briefing, representatives for the center stated Hyebin is Schreiber’s legitimized child based on the completed adoption, as he had argued with USCIS.
“Kansas does not require a biological (or pseudo-biological) connection in order to establish the parent-child relationship,” according to the brief. “Furthermore, Kansas expressly protects the rights and family status of adoptive parents and children, putting them on equal footing with biological families.”
In addition, the briefing cited the fact that Hyebin’s birth certificate was amended after her adoption was complete as more proof that she is Schreiber’s legal daughter. Hyebin was also issued a military ID card by the U.S. Department of Defense, according to legal documents.
Other legal documents argue that the government’s definition of a “legitimated” child is “ambiguous.”
“The government offers no adequate justification for USCIS’s interpretation deeming a ‘biological,’ but not ‘genetic,’ connection sufficient only if that biological connection is established through the use of assisted reproductive technologies,” one document states.
The argument goes on to say that the requirement for a biological connection under that rule is “unreasonable.”
The Schreibers will face an appellate court on Sept. 26. If the appeals court sides with the district court’s decision, Schreiber said his family will then take the matter up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.