Non-Citizen Adoptees in the State of Massachusetts

Well, I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much as usual. I’ve been really busy at work. However, I have compiled some useful information in regards to all the adoptees who have been showing up in the news for their criminal records, non-citizen status, and potential deportation. I was originally really interested by this idea that there was this large sub-population of Asian adoptees who were not naturalized upon their arrival to the U.S. by their adoptive parents. Some cases, such as the Joon Hyun Kim case baffle me since his first adoptive mother worked for Holt. Why would parents not understand this aspect of adoption? Why would they not choose to naturalize their children? I have a friend whose sister was naturalized, but he and his blood brother were not. Well it’s a mystery to me, but I don’t think it’s that much of a mystery that several of these adoptees have had a rough time growing up and have subsequently been in trouble with the law. If adoptive parents can’t even handle, what I would think is the most important and most obvious adoption procedure for an international child, what other monumental issues have these adoptees encountered growing up with their adoptive parents?I’m hoping that at some point I can get Census PUM data for other states to try to calculate the number of adoptees who are non-citizens. In fact, if anyone knows of someone at the University of Minnesota who would have access to sorted Census data on specifically Asian Americans, I’d really appreciate it if you could connect me with them. Otherwise, who knows how long it would take to compile additional states’ data on adoptees. There is a fairly large constituency of Asian adoptees in Massachusetts who are not citizens. Take a look, feel free to link, but please cite because this is all original research that I’m developing for a larger study. Just thought you all would be interested getting a sneak peak at some initial findings.

— — —

Adopted Asian Non-Citizens in Massachusetts


Asian Indian


Chinese (non-Taiwanese)



Total # NOT Citizen Asian Adoptees

# Adoptees in 5% sample file







# NOT Citizens







% NOT Citizens







Estimate Total # NOT Citizen Adoptees







2000 PUMS, 5% sample size



Of the total 5% sample size, the numbers recorded for “# NOT Citizens” represents those non-citizens within each Asian American adoptee cohort recorded. The “Estimate Total # NOT Citizen Adoptees” represents an estimated total number of non-citizen adoptees for each Asian American group built upon the original 5% sample size. So the “Total # of NOT Citizen Asian Adoptees” shows the total number of non-citizen Asian adoptees that considers the data from all other Asian American adoptee groups not recorded in this table.


The particular timing of this census data in relation to the 2000 Child Citizenship Act (CCA) is important. Since those adopted after February 27, 2001 are automatically granted citizenship, this census data provides reliable figures on those adopted prior to the 2000 CCA.


The 2000 PUMS data reflects an estimated total of 1,620 Asian adoptees residing within households in the state based upon the original 5% sample size. Although Korean, Chinese (non-Taiwanese), Vietnamese, Cambodian and Asian Indians make up the largest sub-groups of non-citizens, it should also be noted that while Filipino adoptees’ rate of non-citizenship is low, their population size is the sixth largest Asian adoptee sub-group.


The number of Korean and Chinese (non-Taiwanese) adoptees recorded in the sample were the highest out of all other Asian American adoptee groups. Chinese adoptees as a group account for approximately 30% of all adoptees recorded, while Korean adoptees account for about 37% of the total number of Asian adoptees regardless of citizenship status.


Although the percentage of Korean adoptees is higher than Chinese adoptees, the number of non-citizen Chinese adoptees is significantly higher than those of Koreans. Chinese adoptees are more than twice as likely as Korean adoptees to be non-citizens.


Asian Indian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese adoptee populations are relatively comparable. Asian Indians are 7.8%, Cambodians are 6.6%, and Vietnamese are 7% of the total Asian adoptee population regardless of citizenship status. Cambodians however, are almost 10% more likely to be non-citizens than Asian Indians and Vietnamese adoptees. Interestingly, Vietnamese and Asian Indian non-adoptee, non-citizen data shows a relatively proportionate outcome in relation to their adoptee, non-citizen counterpart. Both groups in both data sets of non-citizens are approximately 6% of each other in comparison[1].

[1] (Institute for Asian American Studies, “Asian Americans in Massachusetts,” Liu, Watanabe, and Lo, June 2004)


10 Comments on “Non-Citizen Adoptees in the State of Massachusetts

  1. Again, the table is not showing up correctly in the post. I will try to make it into an image, and attach it to the post when I get some time. In the meantime, as I said, if you’re interested in seeing the full table please email me.

  2. Ok…I finally corrected the issue with the table. The table as it is shown in the post has been corrected!

  3. Intriguing so far, Gang Shik and surprising. Out of curiosity, I wonder if there’s a way to gauge whether this a declining or increasing problem or if it’s remaining steady.

  4. Hey Sume,

    That’s an interesting question. Well I’m assuming that while there are still adoptees adopted prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 who are non-citizens, the sizeable population that it is currently says that there will probably be more incidents similar to those of Joon Hyun Kim in the future. However, overall it could be a decreasing trend since all adopted since 2000 automatically are naturalized. Honestly it’s hard to say at this point. I don’t want to say anything conclusive just because it could come back to bite me in the ass. But I will say that right now, it is a serious issue. I wonder about states with higher numbers of Asian adoptees, and how those numbers compare or contrast to Masssachusetts. Wish I had the money to invest in that census data, but even so it would take me forever to just isolate Asian Americans, then to adoptees etc. We’ll see though, I’ll let you know if I find out anything else.

  5. A few comments:

    Given the high number of Korean children adopted into this country between the 1950’s and 2001 I would not be surprised if there are adoptive parents who were never told they had to naturalize their children. Also, I’ve read other stories about adoptees who were not naturalized and many times their parents thought the child automatically became a citizen upon adoption. Fortunately for me my mom is sort of woman who’s on the ball about stuff like this and I was naturalized ASAP – when I was 5. My naturalization certificate has the bi-centennial seal on it, too. I think that’s kinda cool 🙂

    Second, I’ve heard that when Congress was working on the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 there was talk of making it retroactive. But then some Congressman from Texas – I think it was DeLay – got up and started yammering on about how a couple in his district would adopt an entire Mexican village and thus you’d have all these Mexicans immediately becoming US citizens. While more reasonable members of Congress questioned DeLay, the act still passed w/o being retroactive. *grumble*

    The citizenship issue can become especially interesting when male adoptees travel back to Korea on their Korean passports and are told upon arrival that they have to fulfill their military duty……..

    Even with the Child Citizenship Act, new a-parents still have to deal with red tape. I’m on an a-parent list and several parents routinely advise new parents to file for a citizenship certificate ASAP. My guess is that the citizenship certificates functions the same way as a birth certificate does when it comes to proving citizenship.

    Which leads me back to why a-parents didn’t always know to naturalize their children: Some states issue an amended birth certificate upon adoption. In domestic cases this means that the original birth certificate is stuffed in a folder somewhere, likely under “lock and key” from the prying eyes of the adoptee when he or she grows up, and then state issues another birth certificate that has the a-parents’ names on it. Since this amended certificate can be used like a birth certificate, perhaps a-parents also assumed that it was proof of citizenship, thus their children were US citizens?

    But a woman who works for Holt not knowing?!?!?!? I don’t get it.

    Btw, there are some adoptees who believe that changing the child’s citizenship is another form of destroying the adoptee’s sense of identity. However, I think there are very few, and I think they may be from Scandinavian countries that might be nicer towards non-citizens. Or at least give them better rights and privileges than we do.

  6. The New York State amended birth certificate clearly states that it is not proof of citizenship. The main reason for filing for a new certificate is to make things easier for the adoptee to have access to legal documents in the United States,
    in case the originals are lost,stolen or whatever.
    My oldest daughter was adopted 97, and it took me over two years and some phone calls to a State Senator’s office to get the certificate.
    Under the new laws, yes, citizenship is automatic if the child arrives on an IR-3
    visa where both parents traveled and met the child prior to the adoption. If only one parent travels, the citizenship is not automatically conferred and must be applied for.
    So, even with the new citizenship law, there are going to be children who will fall through the cracks.
    Finally, although citizenship is now automatic, parents must still file for proof of citizenship through INS. A parent can also obtain a US passport with an IR-3 visa, but I have heard that not every country recognizes that as proof of citizenship so it’s a good idea to obtain the certificate from INS. Also, a parent must notify social security when status changes from permanent resident alien to citizenship. This is very important later on.
    I think that it’s the parents responsibility to complete these forms and obtain everything legally available for their children as soon as possible. It’s too easy to blame adoption agencies for this one. IMO, Parents are responsible for this one.

  7. I am one of the Korean Adoptees that wasn’t naturalized. I’ve met thousands of KADs in the last 20 years, yet only a handful of them were not naturalized by their APs. I understand that there are more KAD noncitizens than most people think, but 18.8% seems too high.

    Also, I don’t understand how you got this data – from the U.S. Census? The 2010 Census forms didn’t ask about adoption or citizenship…?

    I’m not trying to discount what you’re saying, Bae Gang Shik, it’s just that something in my head isn’t computing. Can you help me out? Sorry if I’ve missed something obvious.

  8. P.S. I consider you an ally and “we’re on the same team”, so I hope you don’t take this as contentious… I’m just confused. Feel free to answer me by email if you don’t want these posts public:

    • Thanks for your questions Jenna. Starting in 2000 the census began asking families about their children. One of those questions was if they were adopted. In other words the numbers above only reflect adopted children living with their parents at the time the 2000 census was taken. Therefore the numbers should be higher since they do not account for adult adoptees.

      I came to these numbers after downloading the census PUMS micro sample for 2000 and running statistical analyses for the number of adoptees in Massachusetts who were unnaturalized. Hope this answers some of your questions. Gang Shik.

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