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Adoption to Nowhere

September 19, 2006 permalink

We received a report from a 45-year-old woman, Ruth Shaw, in Florida of native American heritage. She was born in Ft McPherson in Canada's Northwest Territories and adopted at the age of seven by missionaries in Minnesota. In 1985 she reunited with her birth family. Aside from visits to Canada, she has lived her adult life in the United States, and is now in Florida, where her children and grandchildren live. Her Indian status papers got her back and forth over the border.

Three years ago on a visit to Canada, she was informed that she was not a US citizen, and her identity documents were confiscated. Now virtually everything she does is potentially criminal. She cannot help the girl scouts on account of citizenship. She applied to a school to get a high-school equivalency education, but was turned down for lack of a country. Last winter her older brother died and she had to cross the border with irregular documents to attend his funeral. A single traffic ticket could land her in jail for a long time.

She is supposed to apply for a green card to live in the USA. She has spent $30,000 on lawyers without getting any help. It is a confusing and irregular case, and lawyers don't know what to do with her. Canada does not help, they complicated her life by issuing her a phony birth certificate with the (adoptive) name Ruth Ann Simmons, instead of her birth surname of Itsi.

Advocates of adoption focus only on its effect on childhood years. It is unlikely this mess will ever be cleared up, and this woman will live in legal purgatory for the rest of her life. What wrongful act did Ruth commit to get classified as "illegal immigrant"?