East Texas family caught in immigration nightmare

By Christel Phillips - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Lufkin man and his family are caught in an immigration nightmare. 35 years ago he was adopted by his Lufkin family and now he is unable to return to his family here in East Texas. Robin Whitely spends every day hiding out on the Mexican border because immigration says he has no right to be in America. But, his family says he does.

Back in 2000, Robin Whitely was arrested for a drug possession charge in Lufkin causing him to be deported to Mexico.

"He has no proof, no evidence that he was ever in Mexico," said Robin's mother, Lara Whitely.

Without legal U.S. immigration papers and no real proof of Mexican citizenship, Robin Whitely is considered a man with no country.

"I'm not blaming immigration because the immigration laws are so complicated," his mother said. "We claim his citizenship by law it's in the Constitution."

Robin's family says trying to get him back home has been a struggle. 

"It's been a nightmare."

And, it has not been easy for Robin either. 

"I have no way to get a job," said Robin Whitely, who is anxiously waiting his U.S. citizenship. "I have no ID. It's an everyday struggle. I'm away from my family."

It was 1974 when Lara Whitely received a call from a midwife in El Paso asking her if she would adopt a baby boy that needed a home. And, wanting to help, she gladly accepted. Whitely said once they got back to East Texas they immediately went through the legal process for his citizenship.

"We went to immigration and we did everything they told us to do except they refused to acknowledge him as our son," said the desperate mother.

Whitely said she knows her son made a mistake but she feels he has paid for his mistake, and her son should have the right to come home where he belongs.

Robin's adoption is legal and a lawyer drew up his adoption decree, but Robin's adoption papers were sealed until he was 18, so immigration would not accept his paperwork, and they would not grant his citizenship.

"I have his birth certificate from Austin, showing we are the adoptive parents," explains Whitely. 

Robin's mother is hoping two house bills will pass in Congress that will grant U.S. citizenship for children adopted from outside the U.S. so other families will not have to go through their situation.

Senate Bill 1359, the Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act or FACE Act, will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and automatically grant citizenship to those over and under the age of 18, and if passed Robin could be given citizenship.

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