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Adopted immigrant fights to remain in country, seeks residency

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In prior posts we have noted the complex nature of immigration laws. Those in the country on visas, those seeking green cards and those applying for U.S. citizenship must navigate an often dizzying maze of federal rules and regulations. Being unaware of any of these laws can have a significant harmful effect on one's immigration status. For example, take the case of one young immigrant woman.

She arrived in the country illegally when she was very young. After a few years, an American couple adopted the young girl. As she grew into her teenage years, her thoughts, like those of many teens, turned towards getting a driver's license. But she encountered more difficultly than merely passing a written exam and a road test. There was a problem with her Social Security number. After pursuing the issue with a number of government agencies, she learned from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she did not have U.S. citizenship.

This came as quite a shock to the girl and her adoptive parents. When the couple adopted her, employees at the Oregon Department of Human Services assured the family that their newly adopted daughter had gained citizenship and there was nothing more the family needed to do on that front. That information turned out to be false. The girl grew up blissfully unaware that the time for her to act on her immigration status was slowly counting down. By the time the misinformation came to light, she had turned 18 and any measures she could then take became much more complicated and cumbersome.

Under federal immigration law, she could only apply for residency after enduring a ban from the U.S. Even her marriage to a U.S. citizen was to no avail in her immigration fight. She was granted a brief reprieve when immigration officials gave her a U visa, a temporary measure provided to a very small percentage of immigrants.

In the meantime, she filed a lawsuit against Oregon for the information it wrongly provided. As a result of the error, she is unable to obtain a permit to work. Oregon had argued that the lawsuit was filed too late, but the Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed, recently ruling that the suit can go forward. No matter the outcome, however, the lawsuit cannot repair many of the difficulties she has encountered thus far in her immigration case.

Source: Associated Press, "Case in adoption-immigration snafu to proceed," Aug. 19, 2012.

• Knowledge of, and adherence to, immigration law is vitally important. If you would like more information on our practice, please visit our Washington, D.C. naturalization and citizenship page.

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