The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015: What You Need to Know

It’s time for all members of the triad to come together and support this with our full force!

Maya Brown-Zimmerman December 27, 2015
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Have you heard of the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015? If not, you’re not alone, but it’s time for all members of the triad to come together and support this with our full force!

The Adoptee Citizenship Act (S.2275) is a senate bill currently in committee, whose purpose is to 1) Grant adult international adoptees automatic citizenship, and 2) Provide an easy way for adult adoptees who have been deported to return to the United States. Unless you’re involved in international adoption, you probably have no idea that there are thousands of adult adoptees without citizenship living in the US right now. I didn’t until a couple months ago. Let’s start with a brief history lesson.

International adoption to the US started after the Korean War and has grown in popularity over the years. But in the beginning, the United States didn’t automatically grant citizenship to adopted children from abroad. Instead, there was additional paperwork for adoptive parents and their agencies to file before their child could become a citizen. Many parents and/or agencies just didn’t file this paperwork, or wrongly assumed their child was automatically a citizen.

In the late 1990s, adoptive parents got together and lobbied for the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which made international adoption easier for hopeful adoptive families by eliminating the extra paperwork and automatically granting citizenship to internationally adopted children, and grandfathering in children under 18 years old. This became law in 2001. However, it didn’t account for all of those adult adoptees who didn’t have citizenship.

Why?

Congressmen were concerned about granting citizenship to adoptees who had committed minor crimes, according to Kevin H. Vollmers, Executive Director at Gazillion Strong, one of the organizations behind the Adoptee Citizenship Act. Clearly these congressmen didn’t understand that adoptees, through the legal process of adoption, should have all the rights and privileges granted to children born here.

It’s impossible to know how many adult adoptees are without citizenship, though the estimate is well into the thousands (South Korea alone has 18,000 adult US adoptees who have uncertain citizen status, according to Gazillion Strong). As you can imagine, adoptees are uncomfortable disclosing their status. Adoptees have lost their jobs over not being citizens. They’ve become homeless.  Some of them were even allowed to vote, which, as non-citizens, is a federal crime. And yes, those who have committed crimes have been deported or face deportation hearings. We aren’t talking about murder, either. Many of those deported have been deported over small amounts of marijuana use, or even writing a bad check. Can you imagine how scary it must be to be sent back to a country you likely have no memory of, little to no knowledge of the culture or understanding of the language, and no contacts?

Adam Crasper is an adoptee from South Korea who is facing deportation. He was repeatedly abused upon being brought to the United States, had a few brush-ins with the law, served time, and has since tried to create a better life for himself. He’s married with children, and a stay-at-home father because he can’t get a job due to not being a citizen. When he applied for a green card, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) became involved. His deportation hearing was to be held in December, 2015 but has been postponed until July 2016.

I also spoke with an adult adoptee who is advocating for the Adoptee Citizenship Act. She will remain anonymous for obvious reasons. The adoptee writes, “I deserve to be a US citizen because both my [adoptive parents] are US citizens and it does not make sense why the US won’t grant me my rights. I want to work, I want to be a positive contributing member of a society that does not see me as one of them. S.2275 is the number I’ve had stuck in my head for the past few weeks. It has become more important than my phone number, my birthday, and the thread count of my blankets as we near a cold winter. Hoping, praying, and even wishing that I don’t have to go through the 3+year Green Card and eventual citizenship wait that I should not have to go through. I am hoping and praying and even wishing that I don’t have to spend 3000 dollars upward in forms and lawyer fees to bring me that much closer to where I should already belong.” All she has is a visitor’s visa, which severely limits what she is able to do in the US (a person with a visitor’s visa may not go to college or hold a job).

So, what can you do to help? Three senators co-sponsored S.2275: Amy Klobuchar (D) from MN, Jeff Merkley (D) from OR, and Dan Coats (R) from IN. They’ve let the bill sit in committee and it doesn’t appear that it will come to a vote before Congress takes recess this month.

Contact them and tell them to push this bill forward. This should be a priority! Also, contact your own senators and let them know why this is such an important issue to you. Whatever your connection to adoption, this should matter to you. All of us need to stand for injustices in our community.

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Maya Brown-Zimmerman

Maya Brown-Zimmerman is a mother of three, both biologically and through adoption. She has been blogging since before it was cool, and is passionate about everything from open and ethical adoption to special needs advocacy and patient-physician communication. In her spare time (ha!) she's on the board of directors for a medical nonprofit and enjoys medical and crime dramas. You can read more from her on her blog, Musings of a Marfan Mom.


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