The threat of deportation
The threat of deportation
By David Hasemyer and Leslie Berestein
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
October 20, 2008
Until the lucky discovery of an old green card, Karla Nash was faced with the unthinkable possibility that her adopted son could be deported to Kenya.
John Nash had just turned 22 when he learned there was no proof that he was in the United States legally.
That made him subject to deportation to Kenya, a country he has no connection with, other than being born in a refugee camp there.
After Karla Nash adopted him in 1991, John Nash grew up in Bay Terraces and ultimately landed work in the neighborhood supermarket. Neither mother nor son gave any thought to his citizenship.
“If you are adopting a kid, you sign the papers and you think everything is taken care of,” Karla Nash said.
When her son changed jobs this year, his new employer wanted to see a Social Security card, not just have his number.
John Nash, who declined to be interviewed for this article, didn't have the card, though the number was valid.
When he applied for a replacement, the Social Security Administration wanted proof of his birth. The only document was the delayed registration of birth showing that he was born in Kenya.
“It just blew up then,” Karla Nash said.
After she and her son filed claims against the county in August, officials went through his file and discovered a years-old green card issued under his Kenyan name.
That offers Nash proof that he is a legal resident, but still doesn't grant him citizenship.
Unless Nash qualifies under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, he faces a wait of a decade or more before he can call himself an American.
An attorney for Nash, Jan Bejar, said it's not certain that Nash, who has settled his claim with the county for $4,400, is eligible for immediate citizenship under the act.
Since John isn't working and he isn't interested in college, Karla Nash is worried her son will get into legal trouble and face deportation.
Legal residents can be deported if convicted of even relatively minor crimes, including some misdemeanors under state law.
During the past two years, two adoptees held by immigration authorities in San Diego were sent back to their countries of birth, including a 29-year-old man adopted at 6 months from El Salvador and a 50-year-old man adopted as a 1-year-old from Japan. Both were here legally, but they were not citizens. [ Alejandro Ebron and Jess Mustanich ]
“He couldn't survive if something happened and he was sent back to Kenya,” Karla Nash said.