Bethel resident Becky Trimble says she has lived in the United States since she was three days old. She didn’t know she wasn’t a U.S. citizen until she was 22.
On Feb. 10, Trimble received a letter with the potential to upend her and her family’s life.
“My husband opened it up first. His face just kind of, like, dropped, and I was like, ‘What? What is it?’” Trimble said. “My littlest, he got a little tissue and he was wiping my eyes for me, you know, like, ‘What’s wrong mommy?’”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ordered Trimble to leave the country within 33 days or risk being deported. The reason cited was that Trimble had voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election.
Trimble’s parents adopted her when she was three days old, bringing her into the U.S. from Mexico. She said she went most of her life just assuming she was a U.S. citizen. She had gotten a job, a driver’s license — and she had voted.
“I wasn’t a citizen,” Trimble said.
“In high school, it was senior year. It was a very big election, 2008. We could make history,” Trimble remembered.
At 19, everyone around her was telling her that voting was the right thing to do. Trimble told the USCIS that she had no idea that she wasn’t a U.S. citizen when she cast her ballot, but USCIS said that it was still illegal.
“I feel like there are holes in the system and that I just need to be looked at as an individual, and not just over a letter,” she said.
The 33-day deadline that USCIS gave Trimble ended last Saturday. But she said that she’s not worried.
“I just don’t feel like they could deport me when there’s just nowhere to go,” Trimble said. “There’s no proof (of where) to send me.”
That’s because Trimble doesn’t have a real birth certificate, not even from Mexico. The one her adoptive parents received from her birth mother in Mexico turned out to be a fake, and she doesn’t believe that the United States is going to send her to a country she doesn’t even officially belong to.
“Who knows if they even want me?” Trimble said with a laugh. “I’m going to stay here and just live out normal life, and just kind of see how things play out. It’s still scary because, of course, they could probably detain me, but I feel at peace that things are going to work out and that I’m safe.”
Trimble has heard encouraging news about her situation from Alaska’s lawmakers. She’s received a personal call from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he is advocating on her behalf. State Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky has also been working on bringing attention to the issue.
Trimble is both overwhelmed and touched by the support her story has received.
“I just want to thank Bethel,” Trimble said, “Thank you for all the love and support and prayer or meals or just advice, love, letters. Thank you.”