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PA: Student Faces Deportation After 12 Years In U.S.
MyFox, April 9, 2008
It's one of those stories that doesn't seem to make a lot sense. A senior at Upper Perkiomen High School faces deportation after living in the United States for the past 12 years. Her family can't believe what's happening.
Anya Gorlova was six years old when she came to this country. Back in Belarus, the former Soviet Republic where she was born, her mother abandoned her. Her father later died, so her grandparents sent here to live with a relative. But, that cousin also fell on hard times.
Anya Gorlova was in grade school when the family next door took her in.
"They actually became like my family because I would go over there a lot."
The cousin she had moved to this country to live with lost her husband to cancer. Raising a child was too much for her, so Anya spent her time with the neighbors.
Jackie Chmielinski, who is now Anya's mother, likes to tell this story about a conversation she overheard with her daughter Angelica, "Anya had said I wish your parents were mine and you were my sister. It brought a tear to my eye. She said I want so bad to have a family and a mom and dad around all the time."
Anya's grandfather agreed, that would be the best thing for his granddaughter.
"I didn't have any hesitation. I said give her to me," said Chmielinski.
When Anya was 12, a judge in Philadelphia granted the Chmielinski's legal custody. They were finally a family and for the next few years everything went well, and then, someone in immigration noticed something wrong with Anya's paperwork.
"It's very nerve-wracking because I don't know what's going to happen."
To the INS Anya is just another illegal immigrant who has overstayed her visa. They began the process to deport her.
"It rips my heart out. She's my daughter. And I won't let her go. There's no way somebody's going to take that child away from me," said Chmielinski.
Anya was planning to go to college. She wants to become a teacher. But now, it looks as if those dreams are about to be shattered.
"We don't know where my mom is right now and my grandparents are very sick," said Anya.
The thought of being deported to a country she does not know and barely speaks the language is overwhelming.
"She's as American as every other kid here and she has the right to stay."
Anya's adopted father is a master sergeant in the Army. Her teachers are also supporting her, but none of this may matter to immigration, since the problems with her paperwork date back to 1996 when she first came here.
The deportation hearing is on April 21.