At 14, Roberts’ father sold her to smugglers to “repay him” for the money he spent taking care of her.
With just a suitcase in hand, Roberts began a journey passing through the hands of various smugglers and given different identities. Weeks after traveling from Hong Kong to Mexico City, Roberts and three other girls were told to get into a van and wait.
When the van door opened, it was police —a blessing mixed with uncertainty. The four girls had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico.
“It was scary at times,” said Roberts, who is now 24.
Once in U.S. custody, Roberts was sent to a center in Chicago for unaccompanied and undocumented illegal immigrants.
While at the center, Roberts was allowed to call her father. Despite being emotionally and physically abusive her whole life, she thought she could turn to her only living parent. Instead, he gave her a chilling message.
“He gave me two options,” Roberts said. “One, he’s going to kill me — or two, I kill myself. It was hard to hear.”
After being placed in Bethany Christian Services, an adoption agency, Roberts came to Grand Haven, where she became part of the DeWitt family.
“It was a long journey, but I can’t imagine having to go through everything without the people in the community,” she said.
Roberts became an active member of the Grand Haven community by volunteering and attending church. In February 2011, she married Seth Roberts, a man she grew up with here.
In 2005, Roberts graduated from Grand Haven High School with honors. Two-and-a-half years later, Roberts graduated from Grand Rapids Community College. On June 30, she'll graduate from Western Michigan University, where she has earned two degrees.
Although Roberts’ legal status has always been in limbo, she’s always had more roads to cross. After completing all necessary paperwork and filing various appeals, she’s exhausted every avenue.
In April, Roberts and her attorney received a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals denying the motion they filed. It was the last stitch-effort to keep Roberts in the country.
Throughout Roberts’ legal struggle, her parents, Greg and Bari DeWitt, have remained by her side and supported her.
Visit the Facebook.com page "Keep Cayla Roberts in the USA" to find out more.
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