Lack of paperwork affects millions around the world

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- The mother of a girl born to American parents vacationing in Mexico is fighting to get recognition of her daughter's citizenship and make her eligible for government assistance for treatment of mental health disorders.

Cerrina Foster, now 13, was born prematurely at 2 pounds, 7 ounces in 1999, and spent the first two weeks of her life in an incubator before her mother, Crissy Foster, was able to return with her to America.

A language barrier kept Crissy Foster from getting a certificate signifying her daughter had been born abroad.

"They didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish," Foster said. "When we were stopped at the border, the officer asked me if my daughter was born in Mexico and I said yes. And he said, 'Oh, she must have dual citizenship then. … Welcome back home.'"

Cerrina is one of an estimated 12 million people around the world who lack adequate birth registration, leaving them without citizenship anywhere.

She has been bounced among government agencies while her mother seeks to obtain a passport for her, signifying her U.S. citizenship.

"This is something that has been affecting our lives for 13 years now," Foster said.

Foster was able to secure a Social Security number for her daughter, but that and hospital records have been insufficient to prove her citizenship with U.S. immigration authorities, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

Cerrina also is ineligible for a green card because she is technically not an immigrant.

Cerrina has an array of psychiatric issues, including hallucinations and a mood disorder. Obtaining citizenship would allow her mother, who is low-income, to seek assistance with medical care for her.

On Aug. 8, Foster and Cerrina will meet with a Social Security Administration law judge in Eugene. They hope the documents they've collected will show that Cerrina was born in Mexico to a woman who is a U.S. citizen.

The birth documents include Cerrina's weight, length and footprint -- but not her name, because Foster hadn't yet picked one out.