By Patrick Markey
Chelsea can walk now, but only with the help of leg braces. The 6-year-old, who suffered a stroke when she was born in New York, has struggled with multiple health problems and constant visits to specialists and therapists. But she’s improving — slowly and steadily.
But that could all change. Chelsea’s mother, Dublin-born Jan Reddy, is now facing deportation by the INS, which has refused to extend the special visa that allows her to stay in the United States to care for her child, said Gilda Riccardi, her lawyer.
As an American, Chelsea can stay, but her mother has to leave, Riccardi said.
“Basically they are saying she can stay as a U.S. citizen, but you can’t. Chelsea hasn’t spent a night without me,” Reddy said.
Reddy came to the U.S. in 1992 when she was editing a film in New York. That editing process took longer than expected, and although Reddy never intended to stay, Chelsea was born in the U.S. Reddy, who is from Dun Laoghaire, made yearly visits to the U.S. to allow her daughter to get the treatment she needs. In 1996, the INS granted her a year-long B1/B2 visa, which allowed her to stay legally in the U.S. and enroll her daughter in school.
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INS officials again renewed that visa for six months in 1997, but in June of this year, when Reddy applied for another extension, she was denied, her lawyer said.
“We want the INS to see that it is not all black and white. There are exceptional circumstances. To tear Chelsea away from her mother is ludicrous,” Riccardi said.
INS officials have said there is little that Reddy can do apart from applying for humanitarian parole, and for that she must apply from outside the United States, Riccardi said.
“To take this child out of her known environment would be so disruptive,” Riccardi said.
Chelsea suffers from multiple disabilities and is currently in speech and physical therapy. Since 1996 has made slow but definite progress, according to her mother. The school that she is now attending allows her to be integrated in classes with other children and still receive the therapy she requires.
“The privacy act precludes discussion of any aspect of any individual case, but the INS will always review a petition filed by an attorney on behalf of that attorney’s client,” said Mark Thorn, a spokesman for the INS New York District Office.
Reddy’s current extension will end in December.
This week, Reddy plans to appeal for help from public figures, including Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Al D’Amato, her lawyer said.
Rep. Pete King, after reading newspaper reports on the case has also contacted Riccardi. A spokesman for King’s office said that the congressman has been in touch with INS and case workers in his office and researching ways to assist Reddy.
“This little kid has been struggling on and it is horrendous that something like this should happen,” Reddy said.