Illustration by Kristian Talley.

Thirty years after she was adopted as an infant from Korea and brought by her parents to the United States, a mother of three in Arizona is facing deportation to Korea, a country she barely knows. Meanwhile, on an Internet message board, a 49-year-old adopted woman is seeking help determining why, after more than 30 years of voting, working and paying taxes in the United States, her request for educational financial aid has been denied and she is being told she is not a citizen.

These two women are among the many who, as the State Department website puts it, “are considered to be foreign-born, non-citizens and do not even know it.”

If the problem of adopted U.S. residents being unaware of their lack of citizenship is significant enough for the federal government to freely admit that many have difficulty finding jobs or even face deportation, it is fair to wonder why more is not being done to remedy this problem.

While it is true that the information is only a Google search away, it is unfair to expect otherwise unaware residents to take these steps to fix a problem they don’t know they have. A simple publicity campaign, a press release or a few commercials alerting the public to this issue might have prevented what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement calls a “large number” of deportations of adoptees who were unaware of their non-citizen status.

Legal residents can be returned to their native countries if convicted of drug possession, prostitution or other similar crimes or if sentenced to serve more than a year of jail time. This looming threat of deportation at even the slightest indiscretion has sparked serious debate over the past few years, especially as the Obama administration has increased the detention and deportation of “criminal aliens,” a term that encompasses many legal residents with low-level drug convictions.

Those unaware of their immigrant status make the decision to smoke marijuana or shoplift with the expectation that, like their peers with legal citizenship, the consequences would at most be brief jail time. Instead, they face deportation.

The case of the Arizona woman facing deportation to Korea, after being convicted of theft, has received significant media coverage. While much attention is paid to the fact that she has children who will go to foster care, and that her criminal acts only barely met the parameters for deportation, disturbingly little concern is given to the side note at the end of the article: Her situation is not unprecedented.

She was not the first, and will certainly not be the last, foreign-born adopted U.S. resident to live much of her adult life under the impression that she was a citizen, because she had been given no reason to assume otherwise.