International Adoptees Deported for Lack of Citizenship

It is estimated that between 25,000 and 49,000 adoptees are in legal danger in our country, with most citizens completely unaware of the issue. Every day, adoptees who were adopted by American citizens as babies and toddlers are learning they lack the citizenship they always believed they had. All of these adoptees are at risk for deportation and many have been deported already.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 made it possible for most foreign-born adoptees to gain citizenship at the same time of their adoption. The goal was to solve this problem, but it was not made retroactive. As a result, the thousands of adoptees who were over 18 were not granted citizenship. They arrived in this country on a variety of different visas, some of which left them no path to citizenship. Most of them do not even realize they lack citizenship until they discover it accidentally while applying for a job or a passport.

The Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC), an adoptee advocacy group, has researched the issue in depth. It seems that adoptive parents were not properly educated about the immigration and adoption processes, which were separate issues until 2000. The parents genuinely believed their children were American citizens because the parents were.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018 aimed to fix all that. It would cover all adoptees of American citizens as long as the children entered the country legally. It would also allow the adoptees who have already been deported to return home. The Act was introduced into the Senate in March but is showing little chance of approval.

“Nothing quick happens in Congress,” said ARC communications coordinator Sung Cho, who was adopted from South Korea. “They look at this as more of an immigration issue than a family matter. We look at it as family. We were all adopted by American families.”

These adoptees are being forced to travel to a country they do not remember. They have no friends or family there and no one speaks their language. The ARC is encouraging everyone to reach out to their political representatives about this injustice.