'On the right path'
Jul 21, 2015 at 12:52 PM
Since her arrival in the U.S. at 14, the Grand Haven woman has fought against being deported to China, where her father sold her to smugglers. The smugglers snuck Roberts and three other girls into the U.S. from Mexico.
After years of court dates and appeals, Roberts has been approved for a "human trafficking" visa calling for "nonimmigrant" status. The visa allows her to remain in the U.S., obtain a Social Security number and a driver’s license, and have a work permit.
“It puts me on the right path,” said Roberts, now 25.
In three years, she can apply for a Green Card and become a permanent U.S. citizen.
Although Roberts received official approval for the visa, the initial paperwork listed her name incorrectly, so she must now wait for the correct documents.
She said the approval listed the name that the smugglers gave her, not the name on her birth certificate.
While living in West Michigan, Roberts became part of the DeWitt family. She has graduated from Grand Haven High School, Grand Rapids Community College and Western Michigan University. She has also become an active community member through volunteering and attending Second Reformed Church in Grand Haven.
Roberts’ mother, Bari DeWitt, said they are "cautiously optimistic" about the visa, as they’ve already been down this road — twice.
Roberts said they received a call when she was in high school saying her case has been approved, only to receive a call back the next day saying the initial call was incorrect.
The family received another call around the time of Roberts’ 21st birthday saying there would be an offer, but then found out that wasn't true.
Roberts said she’s learned not to trust anything until she has the paperwork in her hands. She called the waiting “the longest journey.”
David Koelsch, Roberts’ attorney and a law professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, said he has received confirmation that the name will be corrected and Roberts should receive the proper paperwork within the next week or two.
“She’s definitely out of the woods now,” he said.
Koelsch has worked with Roberts from the beginning. He said it’s nice to see her case end on a happy note because Roberts is a “remarkable young woman."
“It’s opened up new doors for her,” he said.
Roberts now faces a new battle. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last month and needs to undergo surgery for it within the next few months.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.