LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Kansas has been caught in immigration limbo and may have to return to her native Germany despite living in the U.S. since she was 12.
Tamara Vitale, the child of legal immigrants, graduated from Olathe East High School in suburban Kansas City before attending the University of Kansas. She told The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/18l8B2S ) that when she was 19, an immigration attorney made mistakes, leaving her as the only family member who didn't receive her green card.
"The woman who was in charge of our immigration papers royally messed up," Vitale said. "Wrong fees and wrong papers sent in at the wrong times."
When Vitale turned 21 without a green card, she was considered an independent adult for immigration purposes. She could reapply as the unmarried daughter of lawful permanent residents older than 21, but the waiting list for applicants to the U.S. in that category can be more than a decade long.
"My chances of being able to stay in the country in which I've lived over half my life are slim -- unless I get married," she said.
She's turned down several marriage proposals, among them one from her boyfriend. She says she wants to continue to search for a legal remedy to secure U.S. citizenship.
"I'm all about pride and self-sufficiency," Vitale said. "I could marry my boyfriend, but I don't want to have to do that."
In 2012, the Obama administration declared it would defer deportation of hundreds of thousands of children of immigrants in the country without legal permission and who entered the U.S. without legal permission before the age of 16.
Vitale said she thought it would be reasonable then for the U.S. government to allow children who came to America legally to follow a path to citizenship.
"Most people don't understand it is a problem," Vitale said. "I'm always overlooked. I'm the demographic too small for anybody to talk about."
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com