India holds the key to the deportation of Kairi Abha Shepherd, who is facing the prospect of forcibly being sent back to her country of birth, where she was adopted by an American woman 30 years ago.
Indian-American orphan Shepherd, who has said that deportation would be like "death sentence" to her, under US laws can't be sent back to India unless the Indian government provides necessary travel documents for her.
"Before carrying out a deportation, ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) must first obtain a travel document to ensure the receiving country will admit the alien who is being returned," ICE spokesperson Lori K Haley told PTI without commenting on the deportation case of Shepherd.
"Once ICE obtains a travel document, the agency then proceeds to make transportation arrangements. Completing the removal process can take varying amounts of time, depending on the country involved and the circumstances of the case," Haley said.
ICE routinely receives notification from the courts regarding rulings involving aliens who have matters pending with ICE. In cases where the courts uphold a final order of removal, ICE then reviews the matter to determine appropriate next steps, she said.
In her statement Kairi Shepherd did refer to that fact that a lot depends on the issuing of travel documents by the Ministry of External Affairs.
"I especially want to thank the kind souls in India who are working tirelessly on my behalf and, in particular, the men and women in the Ministry of External Affairs who reportedly may deny the issuance of travel documents, thus preventing my forced departure from America. Their hearts must be filled with compassion and I truly appreciate their efforts as these efforts, quite literally, may save my life," Shepherd said in a statement.
Officials in the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to the emails and phone calls if they have received request from ICE to issue travel documents for Shepherd, who now faces prospect of being deported to India after a local court refused to interfere in a federal government's deportation move on the ground that she is a criminal alien.
Federal government argues that Shepherd missed qualifying for the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) by a few months and now that she is too old to qualify for citizenship under this.
Interestingly, lawmakers in past have gone on record to accuse several countries including India for not providing travel documents.
During a Congressional hearing last year, US lawmakers alleged that Indian and Chinese governments are not serious in taking back their citizens languishing here.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Ted Poe, in 2009 and 2011, accused India, China, Iran and four other countries of refusing to take back their nationals who were to be deported from the US.
"These people have been lawfully deported after they've served their prison time, but their home nation refuses to take them back," Poe said then alleged on the House floor.
He said several countries were refusing to take back their lawfully convicted nationals, naming Vietnam, Jamaica, China, India, Ethiopia, Laos and Iran.
According to a recent US Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures nearly 12,000 Indians are awaiting deportation from the US, for whom the Indian government has to provide the necessary travel document to the US government.
India, in fact, is ranked third in the list of what Congressman Poe says top 10 slow responder countries, which is topped by Cuba (49,966) and China (35,230).