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Adoptee, felon fighting deportation to India


Adoptee, felon fighting deportation to India



PUBLISHED MARCH 24, 2007 1:01 AM

He has lived most of his life in the U.S., but criminal record makes him ineligible for asylum

Samuel Jonathan Schultz, a legal resident of the United States, fears the worst if he is sent back to India, a country he left at age 3 when he was adopted by a West Valley City woman.

The 25-year-old knows little about the nation of his birth, speaks only English and believes he would have to live on the streets there, according to court documents. As a Christian in general, and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in particular, he believes he will be targeted for persecution.

But immigration authorities are unconvinced. Based on his two felony car-theft-related convictions, the federal government wants to send him packing to one of the world's poorest nations.

On Wednesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals that ordered him removed from the country.

The Denver-based 10th Circuit agreed that Schultz's criminal record makes him ineligible for cancellation of the deportation order. In addition, the court said Schultz has failed to show a likelihood that he would be tortured in India based on his faith, a basis to get asylum.

Schultz, who was released from custody last year, and his mother could not be reached for comment. His lawyers declined to discuss the case.

The lawyers, J. Christopher Keen and Edward Carter, say in court documents that Schultz is being kicked out of the United States for crimes that essentially amounted to joy riding. Government attorneys, however, describe the offenses as much more serious.

If Schultz had pursued U.S. citizenship, the outcome might have been different. But 20 years ago, his adoptive mother, Patricia Schultz, lacked the money and knowledge of all the ramifications to complete the application process on his behalf.

Schultz came to the United States in July 1985 with his two older brothers and an older sister, all of whom had been adopted by the woman. The single mother, who already had two other adoptive Indian children, later married a man with two sons.

According to the government's court brief, Samuel Schultz has a juvenile record of theft offenses and engaged in altercations as a teen with his stepfather that occasionally required police intervention.

Then in 2000, he was arrested while driving home in a stolen vehicle. The then-18-year-old said the car had been stolen by an acquaintance and he was returning it to where the friend had left it, across the street from the Schultz house.

Schultz pleaded guilty to receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle, was given a suspended sentence of up to five years in prison and was placed on three years' probation.

Less than a year later, in January 2001, he was stopped for speeding and West Valley police officers discovered the vehicle he was driving had been stolen the previous day. He pleaded guilty to receiving a stolen vehicle and was sentenced to one to 15 years.

Schultz came to the attention of immigration authorities during a screening at Utah State Prison in Draper for noncitizen offenders. They initiated removal proceedings in March 2002.

Since then, Schultz has been fighting to stay in the United States but has lost at every level.

Immigration Judge James Vandello ruled in 2005 that there was nothing in the law allowing him to reverse the deportation order. In addition, the criminal convictions make Schultz ineligible for asylum, the judge said. Besides, Schultz has not shown a reasonable possibility of mistreatment or torture based on his religion, he said. "He has not shown that people of the Mormon faith are routinely persecuted by the government or people operating outside the government," Vandello stated in his ruling. "There are random acts of persecution of Christians and also of other religions, as far as that goes, even the majority religions on occasion."

Despite ruling against Schultz, Vandello expressed some concern about some aspects of the law that allows the government to deport legal residents.

In his ruling, he noted that cases of such residents being deported because of felony convictions are becoming more common. He said the only way for Schultz to stay would be to get permission to withdraw his guilty pleas so he could fight the criminal charges or to persuade Congress to pass a private bill on his behalf. Such a bill would be "a very difficult and arduous process," he said.

"It presents a very serious humanitarian situation when somebody has to be deported to a country he knows nothing about, which is quite the case here."


Deported for theft?

The situation: Samuel Schultz, who came to the United States as an adopted child in 1985, was convicted of two felony car-theft related crimes as a young adult. When the federal government learned he was not a citizen, they ordered him deported.

The appeal: Saying India is a foreign and hostile place to him, Schultz, now 25, has fought the order but lost every appeal, including a recent one before a federal appellate court.

What's next: Schultz's attorneys could ask the court to reconsider or petition the U.S. Supreme Court. They also could seek a political solution, such as intervention from the White House or Congress.

Too harsh?

* The situation: India native Samuel Schultz, adopted by a Utah woman in 1985, was twice convicted of felonies. The federal government ordered him deported.

* The appeal: Saying India is a foreign and hostile place to him, Schultz has fought the order but lost all appeals.

* What's next: Schultz's attorneys could ask the court to reconsider, petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek help in Congress.

2007 Mar 24