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Court approves immigrant's $1M lawsuit for state agency status error

A 21-year-old Mexican-born woman has been approved to file a lawsuit against the state of Oregon after authorities told her parents that she would automatically become a legal citizen as soon as she was adopted. The woman discovered too late that she needed to file paperwork to achieve status and by the time she filed, she had turned 18. Even worse, she was subject to a three-year ban from the country for her illegal status.

The woman was smuggled into the United States by her biological parents or other relatives when she was a young child. She was taken by state custody before she was 4 because authorities believed she was being abused by her mother. When she was 5-years-old, she was placed under the care of American citizens living in Portland who then adopted her when she was 8.

According to the adoptive parents, caseworkers for the Oregon Department of Human Services told them that they did not need to fill out immigration forms because their daughter would automatically become a U.S. citizen at the time of adoption

This information was incorrect. The woman only discovered her illegal status as a teenager when she tried to obtain a driver's permit. In fact, she needed a Social Security number in her adopted name, not birth name. She also needed proof of citizenship when she went to the Social Security Administration. Ultimately she was informed that she is not a citizen. Her mother rushed to file paperwork for her to become a permanent resident, but it was too late after she turned 18.

She has since spent years living in fear that she will be deported. She currently lives in Arkansas, though her visa expires in 2014. She plans to apply for permanent resident status.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the woman has a right to file a $1 million lawsuit. As a result of the mistaken information, the woman cannot work legally and she could not get financial aid for college. She is also facing a 10-year-ban because of her status. Attorneys are hoping that they can reach a negotiation with the state to help get the plaintiff tuition for college in addition to citizenship.

Source: The Seattle-Times, "Case in adoption-immigration snafu to proceed," Aug. 19, 2012

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