Adoptee Citizenship Act
Korean adoptee, Adam Crapser, is facing deportation. Shown here with his US family.

I’ve always been particularly proud that the US has one of the highest rates of adoption in the world. I think it reflects something innate about our country and our culture.

–We do not define family by blood.

–We open our doors and our hearts to those in need, especially the most vulnerable—children without parents able or willing to care for them.

–We are a melting pot in the truest sense, and darn proud of it.

But is this really true?

Do we really and truly believe as a country that adopted children should be treated the same as children born into a family? We have an opportunity to prove it by passing the Adoptee Citizenship Act  (S. 2275).

Adoptee Citizenship Act

Basically, the Adoptee Citizenship Act is intended to fix a loophole created in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 which granted automatic citizenship to internationally adopted kids when they enter the US. The Child Citizenship Act applied to all future adoptees and to adoptees under the age of 18 at the time. It did not, however, apply retroactively to those older than 18.

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children adopted from abroad were “permanent residents”, but their parents had to apply for citizenship in order for their kids to be US citizens. Applying for citizenship cost money and was a hassle.

Most adopted parents applied. Most good adoption agencies nagged and pressured families so they wouldn’t forget. And the consequences for forgetting were usually easily (if not quickly) fixed by the adoptee or their parents filing for citizenship at a later date. Sure, a foreign trip might be missed because it takes time and a passport couldn’t be issued until it was complete, or the adoptee missed voting in an election until the paperwork was processed, but these consequences are not life altering. The same cannot be said for all circumstances.

Adoptees are Being Deported

The consequences of their parents having not obtained their US citizenship can be dire for adoptees that get in trouble with the law. Non-citizens, including those adopted to the US as babies or young children, can be deported for breaking the law, even for nonviolent crimes. This can happen when they are 18, or 28, or 58. It can happen even though they are working, married, and parenting children here in the US.

Imagine this scenario: a family has two sons—one born into the family and one adopted as an infant from another country. The parents got busy after the adoption with life and parenting and forgot all about obtaining citizenship for their adopted son. Life goes on. One day in college, the brothers get high and steal a car. They turn themselves in the next day, serve their time, join a 12 step program, and become model citizens. For the biological son, the story ends there. No such luck for the adopted son. He could very well be deported back to a country where he has no connection other than birth–a country where he does not speak the language, has no family and little prospect for employment.

These cases of adoptees being deported are heart breaking. Furthermore, they are embarrassing. If we believe that adopted people have the same rights as children born to a family, we should remedy this travesty.

The bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act would give all international adoptees retroactive US citizenship regardless when they were adopted. Further, it clears the way for adoptees that have been deported to come back home.

What You Can Do

Please contact your representatives and let them know you support the Adoptee Citizenship Act. Adoptee groups are asking that you don’t discuss this Act and your support in terms of adoptee rights or immigration rights. Please frame your support as “righting a wrong, and remedying a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.”

You can call Congress now by going to the 18 Million Rising website.

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Image credit: Huffington Post: They’ve Lived Their Lives As Americans, But They Can Still Be Deported