John Gaul III

John Gaul III was born in Thailand and adopted by a Florida family as a toddler in 1979. He grew up in Tampa, Florida, attending a private high school where he played soccer, baseball and basketball. The Gauls did not realize until they applied for their son’s passport at age seventeen that he was not a U.S. citizen. They immediately filed an application to naturalize him, but Gaul turned eighteen before the process was completed. At age nineteen he was convicted of writing bad checks and stealing a car, and he served 20 months in prison. By the time he completed his sentence in late 1996, the law had changed and he was not eligible to apply for discretionary relief from deportation. An immigration judge ruled that the agency had taken too long to process Gaul’s citizenship application, but that the 1996 law allowed him no discretion to halt Gaul’s deportation. Gaul was placed in immigration detention upon his release from prison, and was subsequently deported to Thailand, where he knew no one. Gaul is barred for life from returning to the United States.

Status: Deported

Home state: Florida

Country of origin: Thailand


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