US, India fight to disown global orphan Kairi Abha Shepherd

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Date: 2012-05-26

WASHINGTON: In most cases, countries argue over deportation and extradition proceedings of people who are wanted. But between the United States and India, Kairi Abha Shepherd is unwanted.

In a heartless spectacle, the Obama administration and the Manmohan Singh government traded words over the weekend on the fate of Shepherd, who has already been orphaned twice following the death of her Indian biological mother when she was three months old and her adoptive American mother when she was eight.

A US Court has allowed Washington to deport Shepherd, who is now 30 and is virtually stateless because her mother failed to do the paperwork for her citizenship before she died. On Saturday, American immigration officials insisted that deporting her would be consistent with US priorities and rules, despite an appeal by Indian authorities that the case needed to be treated with "utmost sensitivity and compassion."

"All the information available to us on this case indicates that it has a clearly humanitarian dimension that cannot be ignored. As reports indicate, Kairi Shepherd was brought to the United States after adoption, as a baby, and has known no other home," the Indian Embassy said in a statement following media reports about the legal boondoggle that has made Shepherd a nobody's child.

"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," the statement added, while not addressing whether New Delhi would accept her deportation.

Technically, Shepherd cannot be deported if India does not issue travel documents to her and there is no sign that the Indian Embassy or consulates will do so. The 30-year old orphan, who is suffering from multiple sclerosis, is currently in Utah and mostly incommunicado, fearing arrest and forcible deportation by immigration authorities. Shepherd's family, mainly one adoptive sibling, friends, and lawyers working pro-bono on the case, are hoping the Indian government will simply ignore US efforts to persuade New Delhi to accept her.

But in a typically bureaucratic approach, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is adamant that India take her back even though she has never been to India from the time she was adopted from a Kolkata orphanage when she was three months old. "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," wire services reported ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice as saying.

Kairi's problem stem from her mother Erlene Shepherd failing to apply for her citizenship before dying. Then Kairi missed automatic US residence under the Citizenship Act of 2000 by few months because she had crossed the eligible age of 21. Compounding that, was was convicted of forging checks to pay for her drug habit when she was 17, a case that brought her into the legal quagmire that eventually resulted in the ongoing deportation proceedings.


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