Breaking News
More () »

'We never thought anything like this would happen to a child' | Charlotte family fights to bring orphaned niece to live with them from London

They’ve tried since May to bring her to live with them in Charlotte, but U.S. Immigration has turned down everything they’ve tried.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte family is facing a heartbreaking and unthinkable situation. The couple is trying to bring their British niece to live with them after she lost both of her parents from separate illnesses.

But because she’s 16, the U.S. won’t allow it, leaving the orphaned teen to live on her own.

Arun Kallikadavil and his wife Sushila Rayaprolu have had a bedroom in their Charlotte home ready for their niece since May. There are photos of her parents, her guitars, and all new furniture.

But the room is empty.

“We never thought anything like this would ever happen to any child or any family, it's been devastating,” Kallikadavil said.

For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

Married for 20 years, Kallikadavil and Rayaprolu were extremely close with her sister and brother-in-law, and their daughter Pramiti Taranikanti.

Taranikanti lived in London with her parents until her mom lost a long fight with breast cancer in November 2020. Then in May of this year, her dad had a heart attack. He called his daughter for help as the symptoms started, and she called her uncle in Charlotte.

“Her exact words were, 'I’m trying to save my dad, I’m giving him CPR,'" Kallikadavil remembers, adding, "'My only surviving parent is not breathing. I want you to be here right now.'”

ALSO ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: 3 ways to help fight hunger in the Charlotte area

Taranikanti's father died in her arms.

“It was heartbreaking, shocking,” Kallikadavil said.

“It feels very surreal," Taranikanti said. "You hear on the news somebody’s been orphaned, but you never imagine something like that could happen to you, and then it does and it’s just like -- is this really happening to me?”

Her parents left clear instructions in their wills -- Taranikanti was to go live with her aunt and uncle in Charlotte.

“The poor child is having to go through so much we are trying everything we can but we are unable to give her the stability and safety that is all she’s asking for,” Rayaprolu said.

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.

They’ve tried since May to bring her to live with them in Charlotte, but U.S. Immigration has turned down everything they’ve tried, from adoption to a student visa so she could attend a local private school.

“The immigration officer stated there were not enough substantial ties for her to return back and she’s a potential immigrant and refused the visa, all because, what I feel, we have a simple rule book that says compassion is not part of that rulebook, it’s unfortunate," Kallikadavil explained.

Taranikanti is devastated. 

“It just feels like no matter which way we go we're just gonna be shot down again and again," Taranikanti said. "We're trying everything we can, especially my aunt and uncle, they are moving the entire world for me and it just feels like even that isn’t enough and I don’t know what more they can do.”

ALSO ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: Election board investigating possible voter intimidation in Salisbury, other parts of North Carolina

Rayaprolu has been going back and forth to London – taking leave from her job as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools math teacher. Taranikanti has been shuffling among friends’ houses. 

They’ve worked with 30 immigration attorneys and Senator Thom Tillis’ office, and they are now trying one last thing -- applying for what’s called humanitarian parole.

“We are going to fight all the way through to make sure she’s going to be with us,” Rayaprolu said. 

Taranikanti is hopeful something will work soon. 

“Just to get some kind of stability until I turn 18 so that I can build a life for myself and have the means and opportunity to do so like everyone else does,” she said.

The family has started a petition in the hopes of bringing Taranikanti to Charlotte.

Contact Michelle at mboudin@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Before You Leave, Check This Out