Moral Low Ground


Kairi Shepherd, Utah Woman Adopted from Indian Orphanage 30 Years Ago, Faces Deportation over Unfiled Paperwork

A twice-orphaned 30-year-old Utah woman suffering from multiple sclerosis is facing deportation from the United States over unfiled paperwork.

Kairi Shepherd, who was left an orphan after her biological mother died when she was just three months old, has lived in the United States since she was adopted from a Kolkata orphanage. But her adoptive American mother, Utah widow Erlene Shepherd, died of breast cancer when Kairi was eight without filing the paperwork required for the girl to obtain US citizenship.

As she entered her teenage years, troubled Kairi ran afoul of the law. By 17, she was abusing drugs and writing bad checks. According to the Times of India, that’s when she caught the attention of US immigration authorities, who began deportation proceedings against the young woman after realizing that her naturalization paperwork was incomplete.

Kairi has no relatives in India, a country she hasn’t “lived” in since she was three months old in 1982. The orphanage in which she spent the first 90 days of her life has long since shuttered. But an American court has approved her deportation and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) insists that India should take her back, although New Delhi has not issued her travel documents, a requirement for deportation to proceed.

Speaking to India’s Times Now, Kairi said that deportation would be a “death sentence.”

“I was orphaned at birth in my birth country, India, and then, orphaned once again, when my adopting mother died. I am afraid of being deported. I’ll die if deported,” she said.

Although currently laying low, Kairi insists that she “is not in hiding.”

“I have never been in hiding or concealed my whereabouts. And I have no intention of absconding from the law,” she said in a statement to India America Today. 

The Indian government is urging US officials to handle Kairi’s case with the “utmost sensitivity and compassion.”

“The Embassy has seen reports concerning Kairi Shepherd, and has requested the US authorities for facts on this matter,” the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC said on Friday.

“As reports indicate, Kairi Shepherd was brought to the United States after adoption, as a baby, and has known no other home. 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.”

In response, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice replied that “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 identification and deportation of aliens with felony criminal convictions.”

“Shepherd has a final order of removal,” Kice added.

Kairi’s last recourse could now be an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

“I continue to pray that the spirit of human kindness, caring, and compassion, which has been shown to me thus far by all concerned and which we all have come to know and respect from the Ministry of External Affairs in India, will continue to shine forth in my situation,” her statement to India America Today concluded. “We are, after all, every one of us, pilgrims in this world. I feel this more deeply than ever before in my life. May God bless us all.”

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