ALEDO, Texas — Lorrie Whiteley McMillan is spending another holiday season without her brother Robin Whiteley.
She's praying that the family's immigration nightmare will end soon and that Whiteley can come home to Texas — the only home he knows.
McMillan, 43, was 8 when her parents brought home the baby they named Robin. Now, because of missteps the parents made in the complicated international adoption process — and bad decisions on his part — Whiteley, 35, has been deported to Mexico.
"He is not an undocumented immigrant," McMillan said. "He did not falsify any documents. He didn’t sneak over here. He is an American."
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Her brother is a man without a country.
'Your normal, crazy kid’
In 1974, a midwife in El Paso placed a day-old baby in the arms of Lora and Royce Whiteley of Fort Worth. Six years later, while living in Woodville, they officially adopted Robin.
The Whiteleys, who had six children, moved to Lufkin in 1984.
McMillan, who was also born in Mexico and was adopted as an infant by the Whiteleys, recalls her little brother as most big sisters would — a boy who bothered and teased her. But she looked after him.
"I always felt very protective of Robin," McMillan said. "He was like my own baby doll. I took care of my little brother."
As he grew up, Whiteley was athletic and into boxing in Lufkin, she said. "He was just your normal, crazy kid and a typical teen."
But even Whiteley admits that he made bad decisions. State criminal records show that he had some misdemeanor convictions, and he went to state prison for a felony drug conviction.
When the time came for his release from prison in 2002, he fell down the immigration rabbit hole.
Neither the United States nor Mexico has a record of his birth, said his lawyer, Andres Lopez of McAllen. And his parents had pursued legal residency for him but not citizenship.
Lacking both a birth certificate and naturalization papers, Whiteley, who doesn’t speak Spanish, was deported to Mexico on the assumption that it was his country of origin, Lopez said. He now lives as an undocumented immigrant in a one-room cinder-block apartment in Reynosa, Mexico.
Since his deportation, Whiteley has illegally entered the U.S. twice to see his children, which has not helped his case. He has vowed that the next time he comes back, it will be as a citizen.
"We have been back and forth with immigration over the adoption," Lora Whiteley, 74, said by phone from Lufkin. Each time progress was made on getting proper documentation for Whiteley, the immigration laws changed, she said.
The laws on immigration and foreign adoptions are complicated, said Heidi Cox, executive vice president and general counsel for the Gladney Center in Fort Worth, which has provided foreign and domestic adoption services for more than 100 years.
"Your Texas adoption will establish that you are the parent, but not that the child is a citizen," she said. "The adoption decree does not establish citizenship [but only] the legal parent-child relationship."
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