TUCSON - A Korean woman in Arizona, who was adopted and brought to the U.S. when she was eight months old, is facing deportation after a second conviction for theft, reports the Korea Times. The 31-year-old mother of three is currently being held in a federal detention center in Arizona.
According to officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Seo (not her real name) was first convicted on theft charges in 2008, for which she served a seven-month sentence. She was arrested on a second theft charge in 2009, and sentenced to a year-and-half in jail. In January, ICE initiated deportation proceedings against her, requesting for a travel certificate from the Korean consulate in Los Angeles.
Officials say the decision to deport the woman was based on the nature of her crimes and on the likelihood of repeat offenses. Current law stipulates that legal residents can be deported if they are convicted for crimes involving drugs, prostitution or other nefarious activities, or if they are sentenced to more than a year in prison.
The Korean consulate, meanwhile, has requested that the deportation decision be withdrawn for humanitarian reasons, citing the fact that the woman has never returned to her country of birth since her adoption, her inability to speak Korean and her three children, all of whom were born in the United States.
According to Korea’s L.A. Consul General Jae-soo Kim, it would be “impossible for the woman to live a normal life in Korea given that she has no contact with relatives or friends there.” That aside, he adds, being a single mother, her deportation would leave her three children at the mercy of government institutions.
“Although [she] was adopted as an infant, she is only a green card holder and not a citizen,” says Kim, adding that adoption laws were changed after 2004, long after Seo’s adoption, to grant adoptees citizenship 45 days after their arrival in the country. “I’m not sure why she never applied for citizenship as an adult,” he says.
According to ICE, a large number of adoptees have been deported in recent years. Many of them said they were unaware of their non-citizen status.
“For the sake of Seo and her three children I hope ICE reconsiders their decision to deport her.”