Alexandra Can Finally Call America Home

Teen lived in U.S. for 15 years, but was unable to become a citizen because of paperwork problem -- until now

For years Alexandra Mulvihill didn’t have a country she could call her home.

Born in Guatemala, the teen was adopted by a West Allentown, Pa. family when she was just a little girl.

But for the last 15 years, she has been unable to call herself an American -- all because of a paperwork problem with the Department of Immigration.

NBC Philadelphia investigative reporter Lu Ann Cahn first told the Mulvihill's story in 2008 after the family was worried the teen would be deported.

"I want to be able to have a job, drive, vote -- everything else other people take for granted," Alexandra said in 2008. "I've been here for 14 years, I haven’t done anything wrong."

The teen's parents tried for years to have her become a U.S. citizen, but the government was skeptical of the adoption. After years of wrangling, officials said the only way the girl could become a citizen was if the family provided DNA from Alexandra's birth mother and paperwork from the Guatemalan adoption agency.

The only problem was by that time, the girl's mother had disappeared and the agency went out of business, leaving documents unattainable.

Days after Alexandra's story was told, CNN brought it to the attention of the nation -- turning some heads in Washington, D.C.

"You graciously picked up the story, several days later CNN contacted us…days later the new director of immigration called me," Alexandra's mother Lori Mulvihill said.

Over the next year, immigration officials worked with the family to help the teen become a citizen.

And all that hard work paid off Monday when Alexandra took the Naturalization Oath -- finally being able to say she is an American.

"If for some reason this never got settled, I'd have to go back to Guatemala," Alexandra said after the ceremony. "Now, I feel like I'm actually staying here."

Immigration officials say even though they were sympathetic with the Mulvihill's situation, they must uphold the law.

They suggest families who are in similar situations get in contact with immigration attorneys who could better guide them down the path to citizenship.

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