Adoptees as Immigrants

Lately, I’ve been wondering what large scale hot button issue will be next on the Obama administration’s national agenda.  Immigration reform seems to be queued up and ready for congress.  Not that there is any firm legislation in order (Although I’d love it if the Gutierrez bill would be taken seriously), but I think we all know that comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue.

As international adoptees I think we often forget how we too are immigrants in this country.  As “American” as we may be raised, the fact of the matter is, we immigrated here, and most of us were naturalized.  Where does this leave the other adoptees?  Well, it’s complicated.  Since passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, large gaping holes have become evident as more adoptees discover that their parents for whatever reasons, did not go through the proper steps toward naturalization.

A friend and fellow blogger breaks down immigration status for adoptees and the naturalization process succinctly,

The majority of us are issued visas permitting us to enter the U.S. because an immediate relative is sponsoring our migration, just as the majority of non-adopted immigrants are. This is true even if the “relatives” are not legally related to us until the adoption is finalized. If we came to this country before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was in effect, we were permanent residents, or green-card holders, before we were naturalized (if we did change our citizenship from our original one to that of the U.S.) If we do not have U.S. citizenship before we turn 18, we also must pay approximately $1500 to be naturalized.”

Over the past several years, I’ve compiled stories about international adoptees whose parents did not in fact naturalize them.  And for those who were and are arrested for felonies whether they are guilty or not, due to the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, many of these adoptees are subject to deportation hearings and ultimately, deportation.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that there are some law firms who are helping address these issues.  And there are also those within the adoptee community who understand these issues and are trying to raise both public awareness but also prompt systemic change to the immigration system.  A friend and fellow blogger of which I quoted above, just started a blog project aimed at addressing these very challenges for adoptees.  The blog is called Involuntary Adoptee Immigrant.

This article is interesting only in the sense that it mentions Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act which would effectively create a special citizenship process for those who are deported and can show proof of legal adoption.  As adoptees, I agree that indeed we are “Involuntary Adoptee Immigrants.”  But the much larger question I am thinking about has to do with where we fit in with the current national dialogue on immigration.  If such a law is passed, and we as adoptees are saved from deportation, what does that say about adoptees as immigrants?  What does this say about the thousands of other immigrants in this country who may also be undocumented and subject to deportation?

In the end I think perhaps these specific cases with adoptees highlights just how messed up our immigration system is in this country.  Thousands of immigrants in this country deserve better treatment.  Thousands of immigrants in this country are discriminated against in the work place and many more have seen their basic human rights stripped away.  I want to advocate for the passage of this law for all the adoptees who have struggled and continue to struggle to gain citizenship all because their parents uninformed about what they needed to do.  No, I’m not trying to place blame on adoptive parents.  I think there are far more adoptive parents who either didn’t know about the process, or were not instructed by their adoption agencies of what needed to be done.  But there are still parents out there who DID know what had to be done and DID NOT follow up.

I know there are often recent and/or prospective adoptive parents that lurk here.  I don’t want to scare you with this because in fact, any adoptions that happened after passage of the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) in 2000 are fine.  CCA included naturalization in the adoption process.  The adoptees I am referring to above are those who were adopted before 2000, and whose parents did not take the necessary steps toward naturalization.

I hope you’ll all weigh in on this, we ARE part of the immigration debate in this country so I think it’s important to discuss how it impacts our community and how we can work towards comprehensive change not just for us but for the many other immigrants in this country as well.

Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act, (FACE Act) Info:

Read more:


Thousands of adoptees might not be citizens

MIKE ARCHBOLD; staff writer


Tara Ammons Cohen is not alone in her situation.

“There are literally thousands of internationally adopted children who have been legally adopted but they do not have U.S. citizenship due to steps not taken by adopted parents, neglect or lack of understanding what to do,” said Chuck Johnson with the National Council for Adoption.

Even more difficult to determine is how many adoptees have been deported to countries they have no connection with anymore.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigates, detains and deports, if ordered to, noncitizens who violate immigration laws. The agency doesn’t break down deportations by type, said Lorie Dankers, a regional spokeswoman.

Cohen’s case fell under the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, whose aim is to help rid the United States of violent foreign criminals. Cohen’s drug trafficking conviction was among the aggravated felonies that prompt deportation.

Her background as a child adoptee doesn’t override her criminal status under current immigration laws, Dankers said. And while stories about child adoptees can be compelling, ICE can’t pick and choose who goes and who stays, she said.

That’s up to Congress.

Lawmakers have taken up questions of deportation, adoption and citizenship at least twice in recent years.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 automatically bestowed U.S. citizenship on adopted children. The measure didn’t apply retroactively, so Cohen and other adult adoptees continue to fall under the 1996 law.

The proposed Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act would change the adoption process. It would give deported adoptees a chance to apply for citizenship under an expedited process if they could show they were legally adopted.

Hearings have yet to be scheduled on the legislation. But if the law passed, it would allow a deported Cohen to return to the United States and perhaps become a citizen.


2 Comments on “Adoptees as Immigrants

  1. It fits our needs perfectly the advantage of immigration reform on the country: Greater supply of unskilled workers, a younger workforce, and skilled workers in needed sectors. But there is also a disadvantage of immigration reform like Greater poverty, more educational cost, lower unskilled wage levels, and increased danger of terrorism. Thanks to the post!

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