Kairi Shepherd was just three months old when she was adopted by Erlene Shepherd from an Indian orphanage — the youngest of eight adopted children.
Erlene died when Kairi was eight years old, and she had not acquired US citizenship. At 17, Kairi was convicted of forging cheques to pay for her drug habit. Now, at 30, she is at risk of being deported back to India.
On Tuesday, a federal court in the US upheld the government’s right to deport Kairi as she had failed to qualify for citizenship by a few months under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Until 2000, parents were required to file an application before the adopted child turned 21 to claim citizenship. Erlene had filled Kairi’s application, but failed to file it before her death.
After 2001, legal international adoptions automatically conferred citizenships on children adopted by US citizens.
Kairi, however, missed the deadline by turning 21 a few months before the new law came into force.
Kairi was unaware of her legal predicament till she was caught and convicted of forging cheques to fuel her drug habit. Erlene’s patchy record-keeping enabled government agencies to seek her deportation for the offence, as per US immigration laws.
Kairi’s appeals against the government decision were rejected on technical grounds. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, judge Scott Matheson of the 10th Circuit Court on Tuesday wrote that the court does not have jurisdiction over determining Shepherd's legal status. “Her last hope is the United States Supreme Court,” said Anjali Pawar, director of Pune-based NGO Sakhee, which has urged external affairs minister SM Krishna to fight for her cause.
The Tribune quoted Kairi as saying that she would not be able to leave Delhi airport if deported because her adoption records were stolen from her mother’s car before her death.
In 2008, Jennifer Haynes, 32, who was sexually abused by her adopted father, was deported after being caught with drugs.