Coffman working to make sure 4-year-old adopted from Peru won’t have to leave Colorado

AURORA, Colo. -- An Aurora family is still racing against the clock to figure out how to keep their daughter from becoming an undocumented immigrant.

Angela Becerra, 4, was denied U.S. citizenship even though both of her parents are American citizens.

Her parents adopted her when she was an infant while they were living in Peru. Her adoption is legal.

However, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has denied her case for citizenship due in part to The Hague Convention, an international treaty aimed at saving children from being abducted and taken across borders.

The decision is extremely complex.

Angela is in the United States on a tourist visa. It expires on Aug. 31. After that, she will legally be eligible for deportation.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, is working closely with the Becerra family to try to find a solution to their situation.

“I personally met with Mrs. Becerra on Friday afternoon regarding her case, and since then my office has been focused in getting answers," Coffman said in a statement.

"I will have a face-to-face meeting with the USCIS regional director on Wednesday, meanwhile all documentation has been requested from the U.S. Embassy in Lima and the State Department in Washington. I have full confidence that once this case is reviewed closely, we will have good news for the family -- Angela is not going anywhere.”

Angela’s story has gained national attention.

“Other than the age difference, it reminds me a lot of what my wife and I have recently experienced,” Kurt Cappelli said.

Cappelli met his wife while he was working in Costa Rica in the 1980s. She already had a son named Mauricio.

The family moved back to Wisconsin, where Cappelli legally adopted the boy. The adoption was finalized in a Wisconsin courtroom when Mauricio was 6.

“We didn’t think anything of it after that. He went to public school like his brothers and sisters. He got a driver’s license and a Social Security card,” Cappelli said.

He says Mauricio didn’t have any problems until he tried to travel abroad in 2015.

“He said well they’re telling me I’m not a citizen and I can’t come back,” Cappelli said. “We were still thinking well this has got to be wrong. This is a mix-up.”

Instead, a judge ruled Mauricio was in violation of U.S. immigration laws and he was deported back to Costa Rica. He had no job, nowhere to live and does not speak Spanish.

“What I know now is after the adoption that didn’t make him a citizen,” Cappelli said.

He worries Angela will fall through the same kind of cracks in the immigration system.

“The purpose of adoption is to make families where there aren’t any and the way these laws are being followed is doing the exact opposite of that,” he said.

Cappelli is working with an advocacy group for foreign-born adoptees to pass a federal law closing some of the loopholes that Mauricio and Angela are dealing with.   

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