A South Korean-born teenager will be deported back to her home country because her uncle adopted her too late.
Hyebin Schreiber, a senior at Kansas University, must leave the United States right after graduation, a federal court ruled.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Schreiber and his wife, Soo Jin, brought 15-year-old Hyebin to the U.S. in 2012.
Soo Jin, sister of Hyebin’s biological father, served as a mother figure when the teenager was still a baby.
The family decided to adopt Hyebin in 2013.
However, they delayed the process because Schreiber will be serving in Afghanistan as director of military intelligence for a year.
Hyebin just turned 17 when she was finally adopted, receiving a birth certificate from the state of Kansas.
Unfortunately, federal immigration law requires foreign-born children to be adopted before turning 16 to gain citizenship from an American.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of Kansas said that the ruling was “not ambiguous,” the Kansas City Star reported.
The judge added that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “interpreted the statue in accordance with its plain meaning,” according to USA Today.
As a result, Hyebin’s birth certificate from the state was rendered null and void. She must return to South Korea.
“My greatest mistake in life is I didn’t know that [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had their own age policy,” Schreiber told the Military Times in March. “I spent 27 years in the Army, always putting the Army ahead.”
Attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford, who represents the Schreibers on pro-bono, said that the case made her the angriest yet.
“Of all the immigration cases our firm takes on, this one makes me the angriest. Here we have a decorated, recently retired military officer whose family has grown closer and stronger even during Lt. Col. Schreiber’s long tours of duty as he led our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He received orders to return to Afghanistan, once again, putting his life on the line for his country. He followed orders to report to the Middle East before filing the adoption, believing it could be finalized upon his return. But by the time he did, his daughter had turned 17, which has created this fiasco for his family. In hindsight, had he known, Lt. Col. Schreiber would have adopted Hyebin at 15.”
Ahead of the ruling, the family said that they will all move to South Korea if Hyebin is deported.
“I’m going to go back to Korea too. I can’t leave her,” Soo Jin said.