Javier Stephens of Simpsonville, South Carolina, currently faces the risk of being deported to Mexico because of mistakes made by South Carolina Department of Social Services, or DDS, during his adoption process 10 years ago. When he was 3, the now 17-year-old was brought to the United States illegally by his birth parents, who later abandoned him. The Stephens family took him in as a foster child and adopted him four years later, unaware that Javier’s legal status would cause numerous problems down the road.
It is United States policy that when an undocumented child is in the care of the state, the child will apply for citizenship before being put up for adoption. In Javier’s case, this did not happen, creating what father Thomas Stephens describes as an emotional and financial burden, as reported by South Carolina Fox News affiliate KPTV.
When they brought Javier to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for his citizenship, the Stephens learned that DSS should have completed the forms years ago. As a result, USCIS cannot process Javier’s paperwork because he does not have a green card or birth certificate.
South Carolina CBS affiliate WSPA reported that the Stephens family calls their journey a “nightmare,” as the DSS is doing little to fix the mistakes they made during Javier’s adoption.
Javier told WSPA that although he feels like a U.S. citizen, he is frustrated with the things his current status prohibits, like driving a car and getting a job. “I’d like to work as a lifeguard,” the honor student said.
The family may soon need to travel to Juarez, a very dangerous city in Mexico, to appear in court with the Mexican Central Authority for Adoptions and petition to legally immigrate Javier to the United States through adoption, as explained in Mexico’s Intercountry Adoption procedure.
The Mexican government does not recognize United States adoptions, so the family is now required to go through the adoption process again in Mexico to legally gain citizenship for their son and keep him in the United States.