In Salt Lake City, Utah, a woman named Kairi Abha Shepherd was adopted from an orphanage in India as a 3-month-old baby, but her adoptive mother passed away when she was 8 years old and never filed her citizenship paperwork.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] started to deport Shepherd in 2007 after she was jailed for a probation violation of a 2004 guilty plea to a felony charge of forgery.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled that she is in the country illegally, upholding an immigration court's ruling that Shepherd, who is now 30 years old, is too old to qualify for automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which applies to children from foreign countries who are adopted by Americans.
Shepherd's attorney Alan L. Smith says that she has no contacts in India: "I think she took a geography class in high school where she learned about India. She doesn't speak the language, she has no connection whatsoever. She's American through and through."
Smith added that Shepherd said she suffers from multiple sclerosis and has other health issues, so a return to India could be a "death sentence."
Smith and other attorneys are donating their time to reverse Shepherd's deportation order and help her gain legal status. They may have to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Smith said Shepherd thought she was a U.S. citizen at the time she pleaded guilty to a felony, not knowing it would end up getting her deported.