Okaidi Yasmin Posadas-Tidwell, 18, a senior at Centerpoint High School in Glenwood, is like many undocumented kids in Arkansas: unsure of what the future holds, whether she’ll be able to continue to live in the only country she’s ever known. But Posadas-Tidwell (or Kaiti, as she calls herself on her Facebook page) has a rare complicating factor: She was brought to the United States — floated across the Rio Grande in a tire — as an infant, before she had a Mexican birth certificate. That makes her a young woman without a country, an undocumented person who must first get Mexican citizenship before she can get U.S. citizenship.
At the age of 4, Kaiti was left in the care of chicken growers Grant and JoAnn Tidwell of Glenwood. What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement became permanent, JoAnn Tidwell said, though Kaiti sees her biological mother from time to time. JoAnn Tidwell is now Kaiti’s legal mother, adopting her when she was 11 on the advice of a Homeland Security employee who told Tidwell that would help her get American citizenship for Kaiti. It was the Tidwells’ fourth attempt at getting papers for Kaiti; the first time the couple tried, when Kaiti was 7, they petitioned on the grounds that Kaiti had been abandoned, but the U.S. Immigration Service disagreed, saying that Kaiti had a family — the Tidwells, JoAnn Tidwell said. On the second and subsequent applications, the fact that Kaiti’s birth was never registered in Mexico was cited. And finally, the adoption wasn’t enough to persuade the immigration service to let Kaiti apply.
The law allows undocumented aliens 181 days to register with the U.S. after their 18th birthday, Tidwell said. That means Kaiti, who turned 18 on Nov. 7, has until May 5 to be documented by the Mexican government so she can apply for U.S. citizenship. Kaiti and JoAnn Tidwell will be able to travel to Mexico City thanks to a temporary I.D. procured with the help of state Sen. Randy Stewart, D-Kirby, and a temporary passport from the Mexican consulate in Little Rock (after first being turned down). Tidwell has asked for an appointment with the consulate in Mexico City; if she isn’t granted one soon, she and Kaiti will travel to Mexico City, where Tidwell is prepared to stay until she can legally return with Kaiti. (Grant Tidwell died in 2009.) That could mean selling her home and car in Glenwood, she said.
“Me and Katie are tired now, we’re wore out,” Tidwell said. Kaiti, a member of the Centerpoint track team, who works at a restaurant four days a week, who Tidwell said has been offered scholarships to Henderson State University and two other Arkansas schools based on her grades, may not even get to walk with her graduating class or go to the senior prom. At the Mexican consulate in Little Rock, when it looked like she might not get a temporary passport, Kaiti wept and wept: This is her last chance at citizenship. But Tidwell is determined. “I never give up. Someone’s going to tell me what to do and it’s going to work.”