exposing the dark side of adoption
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Family seeking support, prayers as adopted son faces deportation


Daniel Bell

The Georgia General Assembly convenes today and a new president will be sworn in later this month. For one local family, immigration is an important topic they hope will be addressed as the new state and national governments get down to business. It’s a hot-button issue that hits very close to the heart.

Danny Wilson’s adopted son Noe woke up Monday morning in a jail cell, facing deportation. Noe, a Rome High School and Shorter College alum, was cited for several traffic offenses – including an expired tag, no insurance and driving without a license – and was arrested when his illegal status was discovered. Now his father is asking for help and support as they fight his impending deportation.

Wilson doesn’t deny his son’s illegal status; in fact, he has fought for more than 10 years with the help of an immigration lawyer to obtain citizenship for Noe, who is now 24 years old. He said his son has worked hard since coming to America from Guatemala to achieve the American Dream, only to see that work flushed away because current immigration laws prevent his son from becoming a citizen.

“We’ve tried every conceivable way to do the right thing,” said Wilson, explaining that he was granted legal guardianship, but never allowed to officially adopt Noe as a boy.

Noe’s story is a long and somewhat complicated one, but a short version plays out like this:

Noe was born in Guatemala during that country’s civil war, which began in 1960 and ended in 1996 and cost the lives of more than 200,000 people. His parents left him with his grandmother and were believed to have been killed during the war. When he was 8 years old, Noe’s grandmother, the only family he knew, died.

He left Guatemala with a group of other young boys and men and headed north, eventually crossing into Texas via Mexico. As a child he worked in the fields, picking fruit and vegetables alongside other illegal immigrants. Noe migrated with other workers to Florida, then Georgia, and eventually found himself in Rome.

At 14 years old he obtained a job working in the kitchen of a local eatery and was soon promoted to assistant kitchen manager. He shared an apartment with a roommate, paid his half of the bills, and rode a bicycle back and forth to work. But, he also was friends with members of a rough crowd got into some minor trouble that landed him in front of a judge, who decided Noe should be in school.

So he became a Rome High School freshman and joined a Hispanic youth group founded at a local church, where he would eventually meet Wilson. Noe spent Christmas of that year with an American family from the church, and Wilson said he could see the longing for family in the boy’s eyes.

“I stopped watching the children open their presents and I began to watch Noe. It was like I could read his mind. He looked to be almost in tears as he watched this large family fellowship with one another. I could tell he felt all alone in the world at that moment. I felt every ounce of his pain and loneliness,” said Wilson.

With the help of an immigration lawyer, Wilson learned the only path to citizenship for Noe would be through adoption, since he had entered the country illegally. And so his mind was made up. Wilson and his now ex-wife decided they would adopt Noe and welcome them into their family. But not everything would go as planned.

Because the status of his parents was unknown, the Guatemalan government would not grant an adoption until they attempted to find them. In the mean time, the Wilsons were given legal guardianship. So, when he turned 16, Noe got a driver’s license. When he was 18, he graduated with honors from Rome High and was accepted to Shorter College, where he worked to pay his tuition (he did receive $20,000 from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund) and played varsity soccer for four years.

Noe earned his degree, but because he didn’t have the proper paperwork, he couldn’t find a job. When he finally found work, it was with a construction company that paid him in cash. Then he was pulled over last week. He did not have a driver’s license because a change in the law prevented him from renewing it once it expired. Without a license, Noe could not buy a tag or insurance. Most days Wilson drove Noe to and from work, but could not this day.

Wilson concedes that his son has broken the law, and he says they are willing to deal with any and all fines that will follow. But he argues that Noe is not being deported because of his traffic citations. Wilson says Noe is being deported because of his illegal status, a status his family has been working for 10 years to change.

“Immigration is not a Liberal or Conservative issue. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue,” said Wilson, an admitted Conservative Republican. “It’s horrid that our government is doing this without considering the circumstances.”

Wilson said he has contacted multiple state senators and representations seeking help and/or advice, only to leave messages not yet returned. The problem, he thinks, is that government officials don’t want their opinions about such a decisive topic to be clearly known because they understand it is not a black and white issue.

Noe now faces the prospect of being returned to country he has few memories of, where he knows no one.

“For 16 years, he has sought a better life, and achieved what most people can only dream about doing. He made himself what he is,” said Wilson. “However, he is not allowed to truly succeed in this country. Today, my heart breaks. I have lost my son, if only temporarily. I will do whatever it takes, until my dying breath to see that fairness is accomplished, and my son is allowed to have the rights which every other American has. We will fight the deportation order every step of the way. I ask for your prayers as we move forward. I beg for your prayers.”

Wilson said Monday afternoon that he has posted Noe’s bail and will be driving to the immigration detention center in Columbus to pick him up as soon as the paper work is processed. He also said his family is prepared for the worst should Noe be deported, which is currently a likely result.


2009 Jan 12