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Government orders deportation of Bethel military wife and mother

On February 10, Bethel resident Rebecca Trimble received a letter from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informing her she had 33 days to leave the country. In December 2016, three years earlier, Rebecca had filed an I-485 “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” with USCIS. USCIS denied Rebecca’s application because she had voted in the November 2008 federal election, just after graduating high school.

Excerpt from USCIS denial letter

Rebecca was adopted from Mexico as a baby by an American couple. Her birth mother was twelve years old and could not care for a baby. American missionaries contacted an Oregon couple they knew who were looking to adopt because they could not have children. They came to Mexico and adopted Rebecca.

Rebecca was brought to the United States in 1989 by her adoptive parents when she was only days old. She was raised in Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. She moved to Washington in 8th grade with her mom after her adoptive parents divorced. While attending high school, Rebecca met her future husband John Trimble. John was a junior and Rebecca was a senior. He ran track and she was a track and field manager. They dated for four years and got engaged when he was in college. They were on their way to living the American dream.

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John and Rebecca in high school

Rebecca voted in the November 2008 presidential election, the year she graduated high school. According to Rebecca, her high school teacher had encouraged everyone to vote in the presidential election. At the time, she had no reason to believe she was not a US citizen. The United States was the only home she had ever known.

Ironically, Rebecca was the recipient of a “Citizenship Award” in high school. It was given to one graduating male and one graduating female in each class who demonstrated excellent character as a student.

In 2012 Rebecca learned that what she always knew about her life might not be true. Rebecca had applied for an enhanced Washington driver’s license, also known as a REAL ID. This allows holders to enter Canada and Mexico. Rebecca was informed that she did not have the proper documentation for the license.

John tried to determine his fiancée’s immigration status on his own but soon realized that the issue was very complicated. The couple could not afford an immigration lawyer at the time. According to John, “We were already engaged. I simply decided that I didn’t care if she was a U.S. citizen or not – it didn’t change the way I felt about her and I remained committed to marrying her.” They got married in August 2012.

John and Rebecca’s wedding

John got into dental school at the Oregon Health & Science University in 2013. Halfway through his first year of dental school he signed up for a direct commission into the U.S. Army Reserve through a program called Medical and Dental School Stipend Program (MDSSP). John also received a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship while in dental school. One of the stipulations of that scholarship was that he work in an underserved area after dental school. John and Rebecca moved to Bethel in July 2017 with their two children.

John, Rebecca, and their two children

While living in Vancouver in 2015, John and Rebecca sought to resolve Rebecca’s immigration status with assistance from Lutheran Community Services Northwest. John and Rebecca were aware that her case was unique but were hopeful that professionals could help them.

Lutheran Community Service collected extensive documentation from John and Rebecca. Rebecca and John initially applied for a status called military “parole in place” but were denied because according to USCIS, Rebecca was waved through the border as a baby and therefore admitted legally. According to immigration attorney Margaret Stock, the family’s current immigration lawyer, this is a common excuse that USCIS uses to deny parole to military family members. Stock said, “USCIS denies a green card because the person can’t prove a lawful entry, and then they deny parole because they say the person was lawfully admitted as a wave through. It’s a classic Catch-22.”

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AK Resource

Rebecca then applied for a work authorization, even though she had already been working at a restaurant for six years, and an I-131 Travel Document. The work authorization was granted but only lasted for a year. The I-131 Travel Document was denied. According to Stock, “They denied the travel document because she had no proof of lawful entry.” At this point, Rebecca filed the I-485Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” with the help of Lutheran Community Services. The application was filed in December 2016.

During this process, USCIS informed the couple that Rebecca’s voting in 2008 was “a big deal.” Rebecca tried to explain that she had always believed herself to be a US citizen, and hoped that USCIS would understand that she had had no way to know that her vote was illegal. An explanation letter she wrote to USCIS in 2017 can be seen here.

USCIS also informed John and Rebecca there was an issue with her birth certificate. Rebecca was born in Tecate, Mexico in late August 1989. Her birth was not recorded in the Mexican birth registry. Her adoptive parents drove to Mexico to pick her up. They drove back into the U.S. with a newborn Rebecca. According to her adoptive parents, the border officer looked over the vehicle and allowed them to pass through. Rebecca’s adoptive parents did not do a formal adoption. They were mailed a Mexican birth certificate a few weeks later, which USCIS later determined to be fake.

On July 10, 2018 John emailed Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office seeking assistance. Six months went by and it became clear Murkowski’s office could not help them. On March 4, 2019 John sent an email to President Trump pleading for his help. The email was returned as undeliverable.

John contacted and hired Anchorage immigration attorney Margaret Stock in July 2019. He and Rebecca could finally afford to hire an immigration attorney. By that point they had waited over two and a half years on the I-485. They thought Stock would be able to help them get Rebecca’s immigration situation resolved.

USCIS denied Rebecca’s application and told her she had 33 days to leave the country. According to Stock, “Rebecca has no proof that she is a Mexican citizen. It’s unclear where USCIS expects her to go.” John sent an email to Stock on February 15. He stated:

I want to make this a nationwide topic of conversation and I will not allow them to deport my wife. I don’t even know how they can threaten to send someone to a country that we can’t definitively prove that she is from. If they send her – they send me and our kids too. I refuse to break up my family unit. If I go, the U.S. Army loses a dental officer. Bethel Family Dental Clinic loses their only dentist. Our families lose contact with their son and daughter. We go to a foreign country that neither of us know anything about.

Stock pointed out that once REAL ID goes into effect in October, Rebecca will only be able to leave Bethel with her military ID. “If not for her military spouse ID, she would be trapped in Bethel. She has no valid birth certificate proving that she was born in Mexico, so she can’t get a passport from Mexico. Our only solution seems to be a lawsuit against USCIS.”

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Ethan Peabody

Good article….sheds an interesting light on different aspects of the immigration conversation. You should do more of this.

Arthur Shepherd

Sounds so harsh. Ask Mike Dunleavy for help, sounds like he has an inside line to President Trump.


Right! If the governor can ask for immigration help on behalf of his attorney general, he can do the same for this family.


To say this is undeserved is a drastic understatement. And it seems no one (except their lawyer) is willing to stick their neck out for them. This is a travesty, and yes, it should be talked about.

Sad, sad situation. Too common in the world of immigration. Punishment for false claims to US Citizenship and/or voting may be draconian and relief difficult or non-existent. Just a clarification I believe important – there is no “deportation” at this time. What is attached is a pro-forma letter denying a “greencard.” There is a lot of fight left here, do not give up!


Illegal voting is permanent ban. She should have filed an i130 and like 10 other docs up to a 601 and she would have still been permanently banned.


She was unaware that she had voted illegally. She believed her whole life that she was a United States citizen. I grew up with Becky. This is horrible and undeserved. She is an amazing person and deserves better.


Hi Steven, Can you email me on [email protected]
I would like to interview you for a story. Thanks.

Phyllis Marks

NY Times interview could make a big difference.. I still believe there is a way to President Trump..others do that


She didn’t know she was not a citizen when she voted. She wouldn’t have known to file For anything Any more than I would have at 18. She was a baby when adopted.

No grey areas for you, eh Jennifer? Or compassion either, apparently.

I was born in Ketchikan Alaska. I’m a US citizen. Why would I file these forms that you present? Right. Why would she file them, as far as she knew when her teacher was encouraging them to vote that she was an American citizen.

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh

Are you a real person Jennifer? You sound like a robot unable to comprehend logic. Why would she file anything if she thought she was an American citizen? You spout numbers of USCIS forms but really reveal a total lack of understanding of the law and even less compassion. Incredible.


Illegal adoption. Under Hague Law she could not have been adoption. My husband is a permanent ban. I am a single mom. He was brought in a car seat as an 8 year old kid. It doesn’t matter what he does I am stuck here and he stuck there.

This is a permanent ban and she shouldn’t have wasted the money to apply.


You and your husband deserve support, too. Don’t give up.

Hi Jennifer, my name is Megan and I work for an organization called Adoptees For Justice. Our organization is working to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 in Congress to help intercountry adoptees that don’t have citizenship or have been deported. Here is our website:

Please reach out to me at [email protected]

We would love to talk with you and see how we can help!

Jon Cochrane

It’s not a waste. This is still the land of the free and right will prevail. It’s all about We The People. Do “We The People” allow injustice due to bureaucratic expedience or do we make our voices heard? I am a citizen and the government is here to serve my interests and the interests of my fellow citizens. Citizens like John Trimble and his children who do not deserve to lose their wife and mother over a technicality.

Em Miller

Jon Cochrane, your words should be fact.. should be truth. However, in today’s world, your words are just *wishful* thinking. Believe me, I’m *wishing* right along with you, but you know what they say about wishes. 🙁


That’s reminiscent of, “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. Maybe try to be the change that we deserve.


This all falls on her adoptive parents. They broke the law when they brought her in the country without proper documentation. The fact that the birth certificate is fake, should be enough to stay the deportation. There is no proof that she originates from Mexico. I say let her remain until more information is found. I understand that our Immigration laws are there to protect our country but this is a rare case and should be treated as such.


And my guess is there was no malicious intent on behalf of her adoptive parents. And these cases are not as rare as one might think.


Then why didn’t her “parents” go thru a legal adoption. They got word from a missionary friend in Mexico that a baby had been born that was being given up, they rushed from Oregon, picked up that baby and brought her back to the US, no adoption, no paperwork, they are not that dense, they knew how they went about getting her was wrong and illegal.

Erin Lopez

I don’t believe that’s “dense” at all. Two people wanted to provide a loving home for a baby. They found one in desperate need. They followed suit. Not everyone thinks they need a lawyer and jump through hoops in order to provide a loving home. There was an entire series of events that should have been correct3d by many people long before the 2008 election

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh

So, your point is what Lottie? Is she not an innocent in this situation? Do you promote she be punished as well as her husband and children for a mistake her adoptive parents made when she was an infant? You make too many assumptions about her adoptive parents and their understanding of her adoption. Did you ever consider the language barrier? No. I am sure you did not. But regardless why should someone brought here as an infant who thought she was an American citizen be deported? If you think that is okay I question whether you are really an… Read more »

Em Miller

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh, bottom line is the parents had no business taking a child from one country to another without the proper & legal paperwork. They knew this but went ahead because they were selfish. Now the daughter will end up paying the price. Unfortunately, this country of ours has lost whatever “heart” it had, & people who have a strong psychological need to throw their weight around are in power. Those people live for situations like this one.


Praying your family stays together and they grant her citizenship.. so happy she has a husband that is fighting for her through all of this.


We are praying too. It is sad, it is not her fault. New born brought into our country . She is innocent. Her parents should be brought into this. They should pay for their adopted daughters situation.
Is there any law that can help them

Margaret Hannah

This makes me so upset. Becky is the kindest most loving person in Bethel. She always does what is right and honest and generous. She is always helping people out. It is not her fault what happened to her when she was days old. It’s not her fault she has no birth certificate from anywhere. We trust our parents to have those things and perhaps all her mom could give her was a loving home (elsewhere) not a legitimate record. Becky has two wonderful boys and a loving husband who is serving our country. We must fight for Becky!

Amen ..💖


Try writing a snail mail letter to President Trump.


Or maybe tweeting

Sarah chagnon

These people are so sweet!! I lived in Bethel , Alaska. He worked on my teeth and Rebecca and her two boys were apart of my daughters play group!! This is not right at all!!! Tearing up a family is not the right thing to do. She is no harm to anyone. It’s not her fault…her mother was 12! Her adoptive parents took her in and here is all she has ever known! This hurts my heart. I wish I could help them 😭


Start a petition and make the president take a look at the case…it will increase publicity if nothing else. There are holes in the immigration system that need to be addressed.


My family has known John, Becky, and kids for years. They are 100% awesome. This breaks my heart that they have to go through this.
I’m praying that common sense will rule in the end. To break up their family or even force John to leave the military would be a loss for us all.


Hi Todd, Can you contact me by email? [email protected]

Liz Nisley

My prayers 🙏 are with you. I pray it works out for you.

Tina Rutar

This whole story reveals the insanity of a ridiculous bureaucracy. Keep this family together and grant Rebecca citizenship. She has done nothing wrong! She was raised in the US, has done all her schooling here, works here, has two American kids, is married to an American In the military – what else do you need to know!? The nonsense about voting “illegally” when she was 18 – give me a break!

Jennifer Gordon

Thank you for writing this! It is so important that we hear these stories. Makes me feel sick and somewhat hopeless. And so angry at not only our government but also those adoptive parents who did not get any documentation from Mexico before leaving the country. Preposterous.

And just FYI – I think there is a typo – where you said “legal” and I think you meant to say “illegal” – in the paragraph that begins “Lutheran Community Services collected….”. Just thought you might want to look at that.

Nate Esteban

Suggestions here for the family to contact trump for help? The same guy who wants a wall and has demonstrated he’s against DACA and immigration.

I think this couple may have to move elsewhere but how can a person be deported to country they have no evidence of being a citizen of?

And this permanent ban for voting illegally as a fresh out of HS 18 year old? That law is archaic and not all instances constitute fraud.

I wish them all the best

Jack Ryan

Demonstrated “he’s is against DACA and immigration?” How? What specific action(s) or actions has he taken that others in his position have not?

TK Kleiner

Well Trump should issue one of his famous pardons.

Leslie Vandergaw

Jeff-Can you provide additional information on what Senator Murkowski did or didn’t do for this young woman?


I wish we could make her an Alaskan citizen.


Alaska is a state…within the United States of America. It is NOT a country all its own. Therefore she CAN’T be given “citizenship” to a state.

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh

Diane, are you a ten year old? Really, I hope you are a child because your statement is incredible if you are an adult.

Laura Charles

Alaska should adopt her. Keep them in Alaska.

Susan Fessenden

I am one of John’s aunts. Thank you Jeff for writing this important article. I am a grateful US citizen, born in the US to parents born in Hawaii when it was a US territory, so they were also US citizens. I have known John since he was born and attest to his character and determination. I have known Becky since she was in high school. She reflects the heart of her adoptive Mom with a huge capacity for loving others. She was raised to be of excellent character and has a strong work ethic. My admiration for her grew… Read more »

Robin Barker

I really hope they contact NPR to do a story. Bethel has great connections with them. Also, how can they deport her to Mexico if they can’t prove she was born there?


It came to light while he campaigned that a former two-term President used cocaine while in his 30’s and it was dismissed as a “youthful indiscretion.” Voting illegally as an 18-year-old deserves this consequence? I don’t agree.


This could apply to so many two term presidents…

india shockey

Wrong on so many levels! The US government should be helping this woman get citizenship not throwing her out! We should be outraged by this treatment. She is more american then most of.


Where was their passport and proof of birth when they “discovered” America.

Reva Lux

Wow, thanks for highlighting this problem. I pray she will be able to get the needed paperwork so she can stay legally in the only country she’s known.


Everyone should email Murkowski and Sullivan’s offices everyday until this gets corrected And Rebecca gets her citizenship.

Elisabeth Jacobson

Yes or whoever the fed congress members are of the state in which you reside.

George Wightman

To say this is a travesty is an understatement.
Where do you call Becky’s “home” country?
Becky and John are serving their country With more heart and better than many politicians who work harder on being politically correct.
My heart breaks in the unwillingness to look at the person and character rather than words on the USCIS paperwork

LaTesia Guinn

This is just awful. I totally support Becky and John Our government needs to be more understanding of these issues and help them to get what is needed in place. Deporting is not the answer when this is clearly mistakes by others, who should have processed the proper paperwork

Shameful for our government not to be More helpful to this family. She is in this situation through no fault of her own. The government doors are slamming shut every direction she turns. Sad!!

Jamie Cragle

I have seen this before to a United State citizen. Born in the US. It’s not hard to do and only took me 3 months to work out the legalities.
First find and locate birth mother or family. Take DNA test.
This will established her citizenship. File for birth certificate in mexico.
Have adopted parents finalize adoption in US.
Then apply for citizenship if needed. The parents finalizing adoption will show her as a citizen of the United states may resolve the problem.
If Bio mom can not be located then someone like me will help to locate birth family.


I don’t think you really read this article.
But if you want to try to find a woman in Mexico who gave birth as an 12 year old, go at it.


It is inconceivable that a young lady and her family can be terrorized like this. How is this even legal? I join my voice with any AGAINST her deportation.
Please let her stay in America. Her life is a shining example of what America is supposed to be about.


I am so disheartened to read this story. Unfortunately, it’s a familiar one. As a social worker in Vancouver, Washington in the late’90’s-early 2000’s, I spent 3 years looking at every angle to help an individual in a similar situation claim his citizenship. I left no stone unturned. It’s one of my greatest regrets in life that every path had a dead end and when I left the state I had to advise him to stay under the radar. It was unjust and unfair and still bothers me today. We need legislation to address this situation, which is unfortunately not… Read more »


Her parents must have known they were breaking the law by not legally adopting her. They are responsible for this and should be the ones punished, not her.

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh

Really into punishment Judy? Sad and frightening that is all you seem to have to offer in this situation. Come on now. I’m sure you can do better.


So she has Known she did not have legal status…and her husband knew BEFORE he married her. Deportation order follows HEARING. Yes she was also illegally in Canada. My Spidey senses tellse much isn’t disclosed here….and that deportation is appropriate. And tell me again those here illegslly don’t cost taxpayers or take jobs …they do both.

Rebel Harjo-Chermouh

What a total sicko. Your logic fails on all points. Her husband is an Ametican citizen serving in the US Public Health system as a dentist. How is she or he costing taxpayers or taking jobs? I have a novel idea. How about crawling back into your broom closet with the other spiders at Walmart? Or is it drinking that is causing all your typos and poor grammar?


BS on leaving bethel. Ravn serves Bethel and a picture ID will be good. You can do better Jeff!


If there ever was a town that could build a Human Wall to protect this lady from being taken away from Husband, children and community, Bethel would be that town!. Stand up against ICE!


Those who say her parents did not legally adopt her, how do you know their was malicious intent? The article says she was adopted, that is all, the fake birth certificate might have been given to the parents who thought it was real.


Us government has become a nation of idiotic regulations. Countet i tuotive and unreasoable. Much like pre war Getmany, communist Russia, and China. A revolt is coming, unless the idoots in charge fix this a nd ri stituts some common sense.
If need be. Figure out a country (Canada?)that can forgive the lack of legal documentation. Also how could the USCis figure a Me ican document wasfalse? They make little sense on anything else.

Noel Sullivan

I wonder if she can join the US military to get citizenship.