My name is Frederick John Buhler. My life has been drastically altered due to the loophole in the current Child Citizenship Act. I was adopted from Ethiopia at five months old by Dr. John Emanuel Buhler, a U.S. Army doctor, and Mary June Buhler. I came to the U.S. at one year old, and lived with them until the age of six. In 1978, Dr. Buhler and the rest of the family moved to Germany to start a life without me. I was placed in a boys home in San Antonio, Texas, called Boysville. I was there until I turned nineteen.
Initially, Boysville they had no idea I was not a citizen until the Buhlers legally terminated their parental rights. After finding out, Boysville did nothing to help me become naturalized. After aging out of Boysville, I served two tours in the Navy, where I began to struggle with substance abuse. Navy drug and alcohol counselors diagnosed me with PTSD from my childhood, and my second enlistment ended with an other than honorable discharge.
When I was arrested in 2008 on drug charges and summoned to immigration court in 2010, I didn’t have any money to afford a lawyer and no counsel was appointed to me. Once in front of the judge I offered records proving my abandonment, education in the U.S., and service in the military. The judge said that was not necessary to consider these records in his final decision, and this moment of vulnerability reopened old wounds of abandonment. He made clear that I’m no longer even wanted in a country I served proudly. My time in detention really took a toll on me: I never felt so vulnerable in my life.
During my incarceration, I wanted help for my substance abuse and further my schooling. I was told I did not qualify due to my immigration issues.
My life has changed drastically since those bad decision days. I want more than ever to enroll in college and better my life, for me first and foremost, but also for my kids’ sake. I tell them everyday this will all pass and that their father loves them. As I say this to them, in the back of my mind, I worry I won’t be here and be able to support them in their young adult lives. They are grown now but my life was so out of control when they were younger I owe it to them to be the man God intended me to be here in this country.
One day I would love to go to Ethiopia and see where I come from. I would also like to travel without the fear of not being able to return to the only country I’ve ever known. I really need to do these things in order to stay positive and grow in my spirituality as a man. I’d like to see this country allow noncitizen adoptees like me the opportunities promised when we arrived here. Help us move forward by amending the current Child Citizenship Act. We did not ask to come here as babies, and don’t tell us because we’re convicted felons now we are no longer wanted. This country in many ways was founded on second chances.