At 30, Kairi Abha Shepherd belongs to no one. She is unwanted in a country where she has lived nearly all her life and her future is caught in legal wrangles between two countries.
Kairi has possibly lived through everything that could go wrong in a lifetime. She has been orphaned twice - once as a little baby and then when she was eight years old. As a three month old in 1982, she was adopted by a US citizen, a woman from Utah. Kairi was one of a dozen children that the single woman adopted from all over the world. Kairi began living in the US with her adoptive mother.
When she was eight, her adoptive mother died of cancer. She had apparently failed to complete formalities for citizenship for young Kairi. At 17, Kairi was arrested and convicted for forging checks. The minor did so to support an alleged drug habit. Kairi served sentence. She now had a record and was a "criminal alien."
After she served time, the US government duly initiated removal proceedings against her. For Kairi, in her words, that was a "death sentence". She has no known relatives in India and has never visited the country since her adoption. Her defence that she be allowed to stay in the only country she has ever known as home has been put together by adoptive siblings and lawyers working pro-bono. She is in Utah, reportedly living in the shadows, trying to avoid arrest and deportation. To compound her troubles, she suffers from the auto-immune disorder, multiple sclerosis, which can cause loss of movement and speech, her lawyers say.
Kairi's lawyers say she will approach the US Supreme Court to prevent the federal government from removing her from the US. The Indian government has asked the US to treat her case with utmost sensitivity and compassion, but the US has said that her deportation is consistent with its immigration priorities.
After the deportation wrangle began, Kairi's lawyers produced her adoption papers and documentation to show that she qualified for citizenship. But US government prosecutors said she had missed qualifying for the Child Citizen Act. By only a few months and was now too old to apply for citizenship.
Her lawyer, Alan Smith, quoted by an Indian newspaper, sums up Kairi's life when he says, "She just fell between the cracks."