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Judge rules that South Korean adoptee will have to leave country because she was adopted too late

A federal judge in Kansas has ruled that a South Korea-born adoptee will have to leave the U.S. right after graduation due to a disparity between state and federal immigration laws regarding a child’s age at the time of adoption, reports USA Today.

Hyebin was legally brought to the U.S. in 2012 by her uncle, now-retired Army Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber, and his wife, Soo Jin, when she was 15, according to The Kansas City Star.

Due to Schreiber’s service in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, the couple delayed Hyebin’s legal adoption. Schreiber was told by an adoption lawyer that the cutoff to complete the process, under Kansas law, was Hyebin’s 18th birthday.

But federal immigration law says that foreign-born children must be adopted before age 16 to derive citizenship from their American parents. Thus, Hyebin’s Kansas-issued birth certificate was practically null and void under federal law. She’s currently still a resident under her F-1 student visa. She will have to leave the U.S. once she graduates from Kansas University, where she’s a senior majoring in biochemistry.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled in favor of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), stating that federal immigration law is “not ambiguous” and that USCIS “interpreted the statue in accordance with its plain meaning.”

Before the ruling, the family told KCTV that they would all move to South Korea if Hyebin was to be deported.

“It’s a family issue it’s everything we can do to keep our family together,” said Patrick Schreiber. “Whatever that means whatever that takes, that’s what we will do.”

“I’m going to go back to Korea too. I can’t leave her,” Soo Jin Schreiber said.

The father expressed his regrets in not completing the adoption process before time ran out, saying, “I should have put my family ahead of the Army.”

“Lt. Col. Schreiber is Hyebin’s father. No one, not even the Agency (USCIS, which denied the family’s applications) controverts this simple fact,” wrote lawyer Rekha Sharma-Crawford. “Nevertheless, the Agency wants this father to accept that the country he loves and serves has no room in its laws to protect his family.”

In March, Sen. Roy Blunt introduced a bill that, if passed, would extend U.S. citizenship to foreign-born children adopted by Americans before the age of 18.

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