Washington – The United States government on Tuesday told India America Today that Washington was in touch with Delhi, but the US State Department in the same vein refused to confirm if it had received the letters of communication from its Indian counterparts.
In a reply to a question posed by India America Today, the US State Department replied, “We are in touch with the Government of India regarding this case. For further information I refer you to DOJ and DHS.”
Replying to an email question, the Department of Homeland Security stated that they had no additional information they could share about Kairi Shepherd’s ordeal.
“We are not aware of any new developments regarding this case,” said Lori Haley, Spokeswoman, Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Earlier, one of the senior officials in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had written in an email to Anjali Pawar, Director of Sakhee and Consultant to ACT (against child trafficking), “The Consulate General in San Francisco, under whose consular jurisdiction, the issue lies, has written to the Office of Foreign Missions of the Department of State in California, and the ICE of the Homeland Security Department.”
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in May confirmed to India America Today that Kairi Shepherd was “not in ICE custody at this time,” but clarified that “Shepherd has a final order of removal.” Virginia Kice, the Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson for ICE, replied to India America Today, “Before carrying out a deportation, ICE must first obtain a travel document to ensure the receiving country will admit the alien who is being returned. Once ICE obtains a travel document, the agency then proceeds to make transportation arrangements.”
“Completing the removal process can take varying amounts of time, depending on the country involved and the circumstances of the case,” said Kice.
On the same day, a spokesperson for the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC broke the silence saying, “The Embassy has seen reports concerning Kairi Shepherd, and has requested the US authorities for facts on this matter.”
Citing the humanitarian dimension of the case, “that cannot be ignored,” Virander Paul said in an email, “As reports indicate, Kairi Shepherd was brought to the United States after adoption, as a baby, and has known no other home.”
Without mentioning if the embassy had received a request from the US for travel documents for Shepherd, Paul said, “Her case deserves to be treated with the utmost sensitivity and compassion, keeping in mind the humanitarian dimension and tenets of universally accepted human rights.”
ICE gave India America Today a detailed account of the Shepherd case saying, “Shepherd was originally encountered by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers at the Salt Lake County Adult Detention Complex in October 2007, following her incarceration on unknown local charges. ERO officers processed Ms. Shepherd and placed her in immigration removal proceedings after determining she was potentially deportable based upon her criminal history.”
“An immigration judge with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) ordered Ms. Shepherd deported in February 2010, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently declined to take action that would have set aside that order,” ICE stated.
“Background checks indicate Ms. Shepherd’s criminal history includes two prior convictions in Utah in 2004 for attempted forgery and forgery, the latter of which constitutes an aggravated felony,” detailed the ICE statement about Shepherd’s criminal history.
“ICE has reviewed Ms. Shepherd’s case at length and believes seeking her removal is consistent with the agency’s immigration enforcement priorities, which include focusing on the identification and deportation of aliens with felony criminal convictions,” the ICE statement concluded.
The story began on a happy note in 1982 when 3 month old Indian orphan Kairi arrived in the US and was adopted by a Utah woman. Her adoptive mother unfortunately died of cancer when she was only 8 years old and at age 17 (still a minor under US law), Shepherd was arrested and convicted of felony check forgery to support a drug habit. She subsequently served her sentence for the conviction.
Now at the age of 30, Kairi Shepherd faces deportation because Judge Scott Matheson, in a 23-page decision, said the court didn’t have jurisdiction to determine Shepherd’s legal status.
The case is clouded in a maze of technicalities, as the court found there was a failure to file a second appeal through the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as Shepherd attempted to get her petition reviewed prematurely.
The Indian Federal Ministry of Welfare in its guidelines for adoption posted on the Indian Embassy’s (Washington, DC) website (http://www.indianembassy.org/guidelines-for-adoption-of-indian-children.php) outline very specific procedures which must take place in order for an Indian child to be adopted abroad. Questions are being raised regarding whether the procedures are actually followed, as 30 year old Kairi Shepherd faces deportation to a country from which she was uprooted as a 3 month old baby.
Chapter 2 of the “Liaison with Indian Diplomatic Missions,” instructs:
“The Central Adoption Resource Agency shall maintain liaison with Indian diplomatic missions abroad in order to safeguard the interests of children of Indian origin adopted by foreign parents against neglect, maltreatment, exploitation or abuse and to maintain an unobtrusive watch over the welfare and progress of such children.
For this purpose, the Central Adoption Resource Agency shall inform every Indian diplomatic missions concerned whenever an Indian child is taken in adoption or for the purpose of adoption, by foreign parents. The names, addresses and other particulars of such children and their adoptive/prospective adoptive parents shall be supplied to the Indian diplomatic missions as early as possible and in any case before the end of every quarter.”
The chapter states that « Periodical Progress reports of children from foreign adoptive parents as well as from recognized social or child welfare agencies in foreign countries » should be obtained, « to examine such reports and to take such follow-up action as deemed necessary.”
It is unknown whether Periodical Progress reports were obtained in Kairi Shepherd’s case or if CARA followed up after the death of her adoptive mother.
Chapter 6, under “Rights of the Child Taken Abroad,” explicitly notes, “On adoption of the child by the foreign parent according to the law of his/her country, it is presumed that subject to the laws of the land the child would acquire the same status as a natural born child within wedlock with the same rights of inheritance and succession and the same nationality as the foreign parent adopting the child.”
Guidelines penned by a task force of members from voluntary placement agencies under the chairmanship of Justice P.N. Bhagwati (the former Chief Justice of India) declared: “Even after the adoption is legalized, the enlisted foreign agency should maintain contact with the adoptive family in keeping with the need of privacy of the adoptive family and provide support and counseling services, if necessary and safeguard the interest of the child till such time as he/she attains majority.”
It appears the repeatedly orphaned Shepherd was denied her specific “rights of the child taken abroad” from India and that there were widespread failures among the checks and balances designed to protect vulnerable minor children from India who have been adopted abroad.
“She doesn’t have any known family in India, has no contacts, has lost the ability to speak any Indian language and might just die due to her serious health ailment of multiple sclerosis, after being thrown on Indian roads,” declared Pawar, questioning, “Why after her adoption in the US, her citizenship status has not been adjusted?”
“As long children from India adopted by US parents are faced with the threa