National News

Immigration laws leave adopted Korean teen in limbo

The Schreibers are a private family going public with their immigration nightmare.

Posted Updated

Angie Ricono
LAWRENCE, KANSAS — The Schreibers are a private family going public with their immigration nightmare.

Pat and Soo-Jinn Schreiber's biological niece, Hyebin, came to live in the United States and go to school here on a student visa. She was 15 years old.

"There were problems between her biological mother and father (mom sighs) things were deteriorating so to say," Pat Schreiber said.

The Schriebers welcomed Hyebin with open arms and became instant parents to a teenager.

The family laughs about all the adjustments. It's easy to see through family photos how this new family arrangement was beneficial for Hybein and her aunt and uncle.

Hyebin's immigration status has never been in question. She's here legally on a student visa. The family decided to next the step and formalize things through adoption why Hyebin was 17. That is legal under Kansas law.

"It was relief in the sense that she was our daughter and surprisingly nothing was going to separate us. She would be with us forever, we would grow old together," Pat Schreiber recalls.

"I'm so happy! Really happy!" recalls Soo-Jinn Schreiber who wipes away tears discussing what it means to have Hyebin as her daughter.

The family took the next step to work on switching Hyebin from a student visa on a path towards citizenship and were stunned to learn. They can't.

"One of the biggest shocks of my life was the rejection letter from ICE," Pat Schreiber said.

However, state and immigration laws don't line up when it comes to adoption. Right now, you must be 15 years old or younger to obtain citizenship through adoption.

"We filed the proper paperwork where Kansas recognizes she is my legal daughter bar at 18. And then you have this other immigration law or policy that sets the bar at 15. I was talking with immigration. Where is she going to go?" Pat Schreiber said.

Hyebin is junior at KU with so much life ahead of her. She is a biochemistry major who plans to work in the cosmetics field.

Hyebin is 20 years old and very concerned that as soon as she graduates in about a year, she'll be forced to leave. The only way she could return is through a lottery system. The odds are terrible and she knows that.

KCTV5: Would it be tough to leave?

Hyebin: Yeah.

KCTV5: Why?

Hyebin: Because I have a family. I think here is my home. I'm home.

Hyebin broke down during different points during our interview talking about how wonderful her parents are. She talks about how responsible her father is and how much fun she has with her mom.

She lights up discussing family vacations to Yellowstone and Key West.

"I belong here. I have family here. That's where I should be. This is my home," Hyebin Schreiber said.

Hyebin's family has hope. They have filed a petition asking for a path to citizenship.

Just last week, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt proposed new legislation to line up federal immigration laws with state laws. But, Hyebin's father, a former military intelligence, says hope is not a plan.

The family has already decided what they might do next-they will all leave together. The entire family will move to South Korea.

"I'm going to go back to Korea too. I can't leave her, Soo-Jinn Schreiber said.

"Yeah, we're a family ... yeah," said Hyebin who wipes away more tears.

"It's a family issue it's everything we can do to keep our family together. Whatever that means whatever that takes, that's what we will do," Pat Schreiber said.

Copyright 2023 by Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.