Amy and Marco Becerra got some very welcome news Wednesday: The orphaned Peruvian girl they adopted will not be deported.
US Rep. Mike Coffman, who took up the Colorado couple's cause, told CNN that he met with immigration officials, who will allow the child to seek citizenship.
The Becerras, both US citizens, were living in Peru in 2014 when they met the newborn girl they would name Angela. They fostered, then adopted her and eventually brought the girl back to their home in Aurora on a tourist visa. Amy Becerra works for the state of Colorado, while Marco Becerra, who is also a citizen of Peru, works for the federal government.
"She changed our lives. We became parents. And so it was no longer about our needs. It was what was best for Angela," Amy Becerra said. "And coming back to the US was best for Angela hands down, largely because of education."
But the couple's plan to raise Angela, now 4, in Colorado was in jeopardy. Angela's tourist visa expires at the end of the month and US Citizenship and Immigration Services had initially denied the child's application for citizenship.
Her parents feared Angela would have become an undocumented immigrant and faced deportation.
"It's inconceivable that a child of two citizen parents would have to live out their life as an undocumented alien in this country," Amy Becerra told CNN affiliate KDVR before the decision.
From a Peruvian orphanage
The Becerras met Angela when she was just 12 days old and living in an orphanage.
"On that very day they literally placed her in our hands," said Amy Becerra, who volunteered at the orphanage. "The orphanage director said, 'Hey, wait a minute, will you guys take care of her?'"
The little girl had been abandoned by her mother, who lived in extreme poverty and had a developmental disability, Amy Becerra said.
"She needed medical care. Her first year of life she was often sick," Amy Becerra said. "But medical care, diapers, formula, whatever needs she had, we took care of it."
The couple was granted a provisional adoption in October 2014. The adoption was finalized in July 2017, leading the couple to make plans to return to the United States, Amy Becerra said. Angela was issued a six-month tourist visa early this year.
"We complied with the laws in both countries," Amy Becerra said.
Fighting for citizenship
In its August 8 denial, the immigration agency said the couple "failed to demonstrate" that they had "legal custody" of Angela for two years before filing the petition for citizenship, Angela Becerra said.
The USCIS has not responded to a request for comment.
The denial also said the couple failed to demonstrate that the adoption does not fall under the Hague Convention. That's an international treaty on adoptions forged to save children from being kidnapped and whisked across borders.
But the couple argued that the 2014 provisional adoption constitutes legal custody.
"It said we had not demonstrated we had full legal custody prior to July 2017," Amy Becerra said. "But we had it prior to October 2014. We had it in four different court documents."
"I've encountered nothing but incompetency and conflicting information," Amy Becerra said of the fight so far.
Still, they are keeping their fingers crossed.
If they get word that her citizenship is approved, Marco Becerra said, "We're going to make a big party. A big, big party."