Kansas Army veteran can’t get his adopted daughter citizenship
A retired Kansas Army officer has lost his fight in federal court over his adopted daughter’s citizenship status, meaning she may have to return to her native South Korea.
Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber of Lansing sued after federal immigration authorities rejected visa and citizenship applications for his legally adopted daughter Hyebin, a Korean-immigrant niece legally brought to the U.S. by Schreiber and his wife in 2012, when the girl was 15.
Schreiber’s service the following year in Afghanistan caused the couple to put off Hyebin’s adoption until she was 17. An adoption attorney had advised that, under Kansas law, that was OK as the cutoff date to complete the process was Hyebin’s 18th birthday.
But under immigration law, foreign-born children must be adopted before reaching 16 to derive citizenship from their American parents.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of the District of Kansas ruled in favor of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), concluding that “the (immigration law) in question is not ambiguous.”
In a March interview with The Kansas City Star, the father blamed himself for not fully researching rules on adopting immigrants. He and Soo Jin Schreiber pledged to return with their daughter to South Korea, if need be, to keep the family intact.
In 2013, Patrick Schreiber was deployed to Afghanistan as a chief intelligence officer, one of six tours in a 27-year military career. He stayed there through much of 2014.
Looking back, he regretted not pursuing the adoption before time ran out. “I should have put my family ahead of the Army,” he said.
The father’s lawsuit contrasted his longtime service to country, as U.S. immigration officials and an appellate board rejected several petitions for citizenship and visas for Hyebin.
“Lt. Col. Schreiber is Hyebin’s father. No one, not even the Agency (USCIS, which denied the family’s applications) controverts this simple fact,” lawyer Rekha Sharma-Crawford wrote. “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.”
USCIS and co-defendants Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice countered that they were abiding by the age requirement set by Congress.
While Hyebin’s case wound through the legal system, she maintained her resident status by attending the University of Kansas on an F-1 student visa.
Today she is a senior and, according to her parents and Sharma-Crawford, her science studies could attract employers willing to sponsor her in obtaining a work visa, thus allowing Hyebin to stay at least temporarily in the U.S. after graduating.
Difficulties faced by her biological family in South Korea compelled the Schreibers — Hyebin’s uncle and aunt at the time — to bring her with them to Kansas and begin adoption proceedings. She arrived at age 15.
The couple, both of Korean descent, met in 1995 when Patrick Schreiber, a U.S. citizen, was stationed in South Korea. Soo Jin obtained permanent U.S. resident status after their marriage.
The adoption in late 2014 breezed past Kansas legal requirements. The state issued a birth certificate naming Patrick as Hyebin’s father and Soo Jin her mother. As a dependent of a veteran, the daughter also received a benefits card from the Department of Defense.
Family members were not immediately available for comment Friday.