“Korean adoptee always felt American, now has papers to prove it”
(Hat Tip to Sume)
Korean adoptee always felt American, now has papers to prove it
The Associated Press
Dorothy Romriell has lived in the United States since the 1950s. She
worked for the same company for 25 years, and she has voted in most
elections for the past three decades.
All without being a citizen.
Romriell was finally being sworn in on Monday, ending an ambiguous
chapter in her life that began five years ago when she applied for a
U.S. passport, only to learn that she never became a citizen back in
1956 when she was adopted by the family of a U.S. Air Force member
stationed in South Korea.
“I was adopted legally, so I just assumed I was a citizen,” she said.
“Growing up in a small town I had never needed a birth certificate.”
John Blaine Watson, a U.S. Air Force member from eastern Idaho, was
deployed in Korea in 1956 when a 4-year-old girl caught his attention.
“I had blonde hair and he knew I wasn’t full Korean,” said Romriell,
the daughter of a Korean mother and white father.
She says her mother was unable to care for her and had abandoned her
to the street. Watson persuaded his parents, Harold and Bernice
Watson, to adopt the child, whose Korean name was Tae Ok Kwak.
She was raised on a farm in tiny Thomas and later married – all the
time thinking her citizenship had been settled when the Watsons
brought her to America.
That changed in 2002, when she went to the local passport office to
get papers allowing her to take a Mediterranean cruise. The office
informed her she wasn’t an American.
Her trip – as well as a subsequent trip to Mexico – never materialized
because she couldn’t get a passport.
Complicating matters, both of her adoptive parents were dead, and the
lawyer in California who 51 years ago handled her case was suffering
from Alzheimer’s disease. Not even U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, and Rep.
Mike Simpson, both R-Idaho, could help; each sent a “nice, signed
letter,” Romriell said, but in the end told her there was nothing they
As a result, she enrolled the process to become a naturalized citizen,
which culminated Monday.
“I’m getting my passport photos and going right down to that office
and getting my passport,” she said.