CHIANG MAI – A retired New York Police Department (NYPD) officer is stuck in Thailand because his 8-year-old adopted son, a Thai citizen, has twice been denied a visa on an apparent technicality.
“I have loved this child since his birth,” Raymond O’Prey told The Post, referring to Thannawat, whom he and his wife call “Mick.”
“How, as a human, could I abandon him?” O’Prey said in an e-mail from Chiang Mai, where he lives with the boy and his wife, Jamriang, who is also a US citizen.
“We want to move back to New York City,” said O’Prey, a former dancer. “The only thing preventing that is his visa being denied.”
Mick is Jamriang’s biological grandson and has been living with her and O’Prey since 2009, when the boy’s mother became unable to care for him, said the family’s lawyer, Peter Gleason.
The boy’s adoption didn’t become final until late 2011, after a two-year effort.
The couple then immediately sought a visa for him, but officials claimed that the O’Preys had failed to prove that they had had legal custody of him for the two years that immigration law requires.
Court papers show that the O’Preys sent immigration officials copious proof that the boy had been in their care for two years, including letters from teachers, medical bills and family photos.
But immigration officials countered that these fell short of establishing legal custody.
The O’Preys’ appeals have been rejected twice by the US Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, papers provided by Gleason show.
Earlier this year, the O’Preys started a new visa application, a process they fear will take many months to complete.
If Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka can get an expedited visa for a job with the New York Yankees, why can’t Mick get one, as well, Gleason asked Sen. Charles Schumer in a letter this month.
Schumer had helped expedite Tanaka’s visa after the Yankees turned to him for help last month.
“While I applaud Senator Schumer’s efforts to bring a World Series back to The Bronx, if he assists one individual with an immigration issue, he should help all,” Gleason said.
Schumer’s office, meanwhile, responded that it will help Mick.
“This is a truly moving case, and we are going to do everything we can to help these American citizens facilitate the naturalization of their grandchild,” Max Young, a spokesman for Schumer, told The Post.
“We spoke to the family’s lawyer this morning and are going over the details of the case, and then will weigh in with Citizenship and Immigration Services,” Young added.
“One of the things our office is proudest of is our commitment to helping once and future immigrants navigate the byzantine immigration bureaucracy, and we will do all we can to help this family, as well.”