Bastard Nation Analysis and Endorsement of
The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015
The detailed full version of this endorsement is here.
Until 2000 children adopted internationally by a US citizen were required to undergo a naturalization process prescribed by US law. Depending on the type of visa the child traveled under to enter the US, some were granted automatic citizenship while others gained citizenship only after their adoptive parents “re-adopted” them in the US following procedures outlined by federal and individual state law.
Unfortunately, many adoptive parents did not check citizenship status at the time of adoption or follow through on the citizenship process. Some say they were unaware of naturalization requirements and believed citizenship was automatic upon adoption finalization. Some claim to have been misled by their adoption agencies, courts, lawyers, or federal immigration authorities. Some believed that it was up to the adoptee, at the age of majority, to choose their citizenship status. In some cases adoptive parents disrupted the adoption, and either “rehomed” the children they brought to the US or turned them over to the state foster care system where they lingered with no legal closure.
Decades later these misunderstandings and failures led to legal problems—including deportation proceedings– for international adoptees years after their adoptions were were assumed “finalized” and citizenship granted. Most of these adoptees had no idea that they were not US citizens until they attempted something as simple as registering to vote or were convicted of minor crimes—even misdemeanors—and fell under the gaze of government authorities.
The passage of the federal Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (text) attempted to remedy this situation by granting automatic citizenship to those 21 and younger adopted internationally on or after February 27, 2000, the effective date of the legislation.
Those adopted before that date were left behind, subject to federal investigation and possible deportation under the old system. The situation became worse after 9/11 when legal identity and proof of citizenship came under critical scrutiny by federal, state, and local governments. Since then, the number of international adoptees deported or in the deportation pipeline has grown dramatically Most have been convicted of minor non-violent offenses particularly controlled substance possession; others reportedly investigated and threatened with deportation for simply applying for a Pell Grant or Social Security benefits.
The federal government keeps no statistics on the number of deported adoptees or how many adoptees are in the US without US citizenship. We are therefore forced to rely on media reports on individual deportation cases. The most complete documentation is located on the website of the adoption watchdog Pound Pup Legacy. Researchers however, say that the number of “illegal adoptees” can go as high as 15,000. Many may not be aware of their “illegal” status and some may not even know they are adopted. To make matters worse, those who learn they aren’t citizens are fearful of coming forward to apply for citizenship because under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996 they can be charged as undocumented by INS/Ice and subject to deportation, The law gives judges little discretion to stay deportations.
Currently, America’s “illegal adoptees” cannot gain permanent resident status. They cannot legally hold jobs or driver licenses or register vehicles, open bank accounts, join the military, receive security clearances, apply for US passports, or receive any number of government entitlements—including Social Security which they or their or their spouses have paid in to.
What we do know is that the majority of adoptee deportees are Asian and Latino, most adopted as infants or toddlers by white parents, some military. Some deportees, in fact, are veterans whose status wasn’t flagged when they enlisted in the military. A number of deportees, were victims of child physical and sexual abuse, disrupted adoptions, and abusive foster care.
Adoptee deportees have little or no memory of their countries of origin. They have no native-language skills, and no family, friends, or support system in their first countries. Most have no means of employment in their original countries due not only to those limitations, but because those governments severed citizenship when the child was adopted to the US. News reports indicate that deported adoptees often end up in homeless shelters and the streets—or worse– when returned to their countries of origin.\
Since the passage of CAA 2000 attempts have been made to close the pre-2000 “loophole,” but have met with resistance even by members of Congress who “get it.” In general, international adoption has been caught in the cross hairs of current and proposed immigration policy and controversy. A major stumbling block has been a concern over a “pathway to citizenship” for those convicted of crimes and deported to their country of origin
In 2015 US. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minnesota), and Jeff Merkley, (D-Oregon) introduced S2275, The Adoptee Citizenship Citizenship of 2015 an amendment to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Recently Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) introduced HB 5454, the companion bill in the House. The House bill is slightly different in that it clarifies confusing language in the Senate bill covering background check provisions regarding resolution and adjudication of criminal proceedings that led to deportation or in some cases voluntary exit from the US due to “illegal” status.
The bill if passed, will retroactively grant citizenship to all adoptees who did not fall under the original bill. To settle concerns over a “pathway to citizenship,” the bill requires that the sentences of those deported be served in full before citizenship is considered.
As before, ACA has become a hard-sell with adoptee citizenship being conflated with immigration controversies. Reportedly some conservative legislators who actually supported earlier attempts to amend the original bill are hesitant to step forward for fear of being perceived as ‘pro-immigration.” The ACA they say, can be the camel’s nose under the tent regarding immigration loopholes even though international adoption is not an immigration issue and is, in fact, deeply promoted by US foreign policy.
Currently S2275 the is in the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Oren Hatch (R-Utah) It has only a handful of Senate sponsors. The House companion HB5454 is in the House Judiciary Committee. No action can be taken on ACA in either house until enough sponsors are recruited in each chamber, appropriate Senate and House chairs are convinced to release the bill for hearings and a committee vote, and then sent on for floor for passage. Lack of interest, along with upcoming presidential election and the failure of either house to move on stand-alone bills in general, has slowed down ACA leaving the citizenship and rights of thousands of US cross-country adoptees in limbo.
Bastard Nation is happy to join the growing list of adoptee and adoption advocacy organizations that endorse The Adoptee Citizenship Act, the amendment to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Bastard Nation believes:
- All US adoptees, adopted domestically and internationally, should be treated equal and fair under law.
- All individuals adopted by US citizens should enjoy the same citizenship rights and responsibilities as American-born individuals. Their finalized adoption makes internationally adopted individuals the legal children of their American and legal adoptive parents.
- No one adopted by a US citizen in a cross-country adoption should be denied US citizenship due to their date of adoption. Under the current segregated system (mirrored in most states by OBC access regulations) some adult adoptees enjoy full citizenship rights and responsibilities, while others are forced to either hide their status and live in fear or come forward, undergo cumbersome and unnecessary citizenship requirements and paperwork—and possibly set themselves up for investigation and under certain circumstances deportation to their country of origin—to enjoy those same rights and responsibilities.
- Adoptees were entitled to citizenship before their crimes or other miscues were committed. Commission or conviction of a crime does not supersede their adoption.
- International child adoption is not an immigration issue.
- US international adoptees had no say regarding their adoption and entry to the US. Their adoptions were facilitated by a network of adoption providers, professionals and US government agencies including the US State Department. They lack US citizenship through no fault of their own and should not be punished due to the negligence and lack of due diligence on the part of their adoptive parents, adoption professionals, or US immigration authorities.
- US international adoptees, should not be kept from grasping their citizenship rights due to fear of federal immigration retaliation if they come forward and attempt to apply for citizenship.
- The US, as a signatory to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, is obligated to extend all rights and privileges to its international adoptees.
- The deportation of adult adoptees controverts the belief that adoption is “forever,” and that adoptees are truly the children of those who adopt them. Deportation gives a black eye to US international adoption policy and sends a strong message to sending countries that adoption is temporary and subject to bureaucratic whim.
- For over 70 years US government policy has encouraged and facilitated cross-country adoption, yet without the protection of ACA, pre-2000 adoptees are disenfranchised from the country and adoption that embraced them.
Bastard Nation is working to secure sponsorship and support from Senate and House members. In addition to Klobuchar and Merkley, current Senate co-sponsors are Senators Dan Coates (R-Indiana), Kristen Gillibrand (D-New York) Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), and Mazie Hironi (D-Hawai’i). House sponsors are Adam Smith (D-Washington) and Trent Franks (R-Arizona). We urge individuals and organizations to contact their US Representatives and Senators to push for sponsorship and support and groups to endorse it.