Call me cynical

On Thursday, June 25, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Jim Inhofe (D-OK) introduced the Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (S. 1359).  The text of the bill is not on Thomas yet, but according to Sen. Inhofe’s press release its purpose is as follows:

… eliminating many of the hurdles internationally adopted children of American citizens currently face before they come to the United States.  Currently, the adopted child must be approved for a U.S. immigrant visa to be able to join their American family. This is often a very lengthy and expensive process. The FACE Act would provide automatic U.S. citizenship to children adopted by Americans, eliminating many of the complications involved with moving these children to the United States and granting them full rights afforded any other American child.

A group called Families for Orphans Coalition issued a press release stating the act “simplifies the acquisition of citizenship for internationally adopted children and removes these children of American citizens from the immigration process.”

Apparently it is intended to grant adopted children immediate citizenship upon adoption in another country.  Plus allow them to become President in the future. 

I’ve always been amazed by the ways in which privilege smooths the immigration process for U.S. citizen adoptive parents to bring home their internationally adopted children.  And now they want to make the process even simpler.  As anybody who reads this blog knows, I am all in favor of adopted children acquiring citizenship and proof of citizenship.  However, I am not in favor of easing the requirements for adoptive parents.

As it currently stands, the USCIS procedure for the immigration of adopted children exists to determine the eligibility (adoptability) of the child as well as to screen the parents.  It isn’t a perfect system, and by most accounts it’s fairly easy to receive approval.

However, if I’m reading the bill summary correctly, this safeguard will be removed.  The child would receive citizenship after the adoption is “finalized in the country of the child’s birth.”  Then as a U.S. citizen, the child can go anywhere.

My first thought?  Trafficking.  My second thought?  Parents who meet criteria in another country for adoption but who lack homestudies in the United States. My third thought?  What about parents with citizen children who are being deported?  What about those children’s rights?  My fourth thought?  Why can’t international adoptees sponsor their biological relatives for immigration to the U.S.?  And where’s the adopted parent lobby for that one?

The acquisition of citizenship for internationally adopted children is a very important issue, and one that deserves attention.  Making the citizenship process easier for all prospective citizens is a valuable goal.  With regard to adopted children, the current system is not perfect.  It does attempt to provide some safeguards for the adopted child.  Removing them is not the answer.

Edited to add:  Text here.  I did a quick read and was glad to see the issue of adoptees over age 18 was addressed.  However, I’m still not convinced.  Don’t get the part about taxes and don’t get the “nonimmigrant” visa status for kids brought to the U.S. for adoption.  Also I’d note that it isn’t “nearly half” of international adoptees who enter on an IR-4.


18 thoughts on “Call me cynical

  1. When we did our USCIS process a few years ago, one of their requirements was a US homestudy. Hopefully that will still be the case.

  2. U.S. citizenship from birth??? So in addition to fake birth certificates, internationally adopted children will have their original birth country status erased? Way to go adoptive parent lobby. Adoptive parents need to recognize that adopting the child is NOT the same as having a child biologically, no matter how many legal fictions they want to create.

  3. I think unfortunately many white adoptive parents don’t think of their internationally adopted kids as immigrants. That probably shouldn’t surprise me, because they don’t tend to think of them as Chinese, Korean, African, Indian, Russian, Guatemalan, etc., either, and belonging to those larger communities.

    Lori, the intent of this act is to *remove* USCIS involvement to eliminate the “hurdles” caused by the immigration process. My take on this is that whenever adoptive parents talk about adoption reform, they typically are talking about reducing or eliminating safeguards for the benefit of the *parents.*

  4. “I think unfortunately many white adoptive parents don’t think of their internationally adopted kids as immigrants.”

    No doubt. From the EACH explanation: These children “are not technically ‘immigrating’ but are being brought here for the sole purpose of becoming a child of an American citizen.”

    And from the EACH bio on its founder: “It was during the adoption process that McLane began her quest for equal citizenship rights for internationally adopted children. In 1995, as she was going through the adoption process, she discovered that her children would not be automatic U.S. citizens even though both she and Rusty were U.S. citizens. ‘Every time I would sit down to fill out my children’s naturalization paperwork, I would get offended,’ she recalls. It was not right that her children needed to be naturalized. They were not immigrants, but children of American citizens!”

    Yeah, being an immigrant, moving from one country to another, is offensive unless it’s solely to become a child of American adoptive parents.

  5. Hi,

    Just wanted to delurk to comment here. Although this does largely take the process out of USCIS’s hands and put into to the realm of the State Dept., I doubt that will have any impact on the “safeguards” in place. The basic criteria that have to be met sound about the same. Also, don’t most, if not all, countries and all states and overseeing federal agencies require homestudies? I’m no expert, so I don’t know for sure, but I thought state laws still governed adoptions, and I thought they all required homestudies.

    In any case, it’s already relatively easy to have the adoption approved once finalized in the original country, and it sounds as though the State Dept. will still be required to check the eligibility of the children according to Section 2. So to my mind, the issue really is about the process of acquiring citizenship. Although this does remove some hurdles for APs seeking citizenship for their adopted children, I’m not sure the contolling of citizenship status was ever really a safeguard for the children or something that ensures ethical/legal adoptions.

    On the other hand, it is an excellent way to confer citizenship to international adoptees and not penalize them if their APs failed to get citizenship, as has happened and continues to happen. The problem of international adoptees being in citizenship limbo can be very real, as you rightfully point out.

    If some APs already have it in their mind that their internationally adopted children aren’t really immigrants, and I agree this is too common, this bill probably won’t change anything. It also doesn’t really erase the original birth country status as durgamom commented.


    Nothing in this Act or in any amendment made by this Act may be construed to—

    (1) abrogate any citizenship rights provided to an adoptee by the adoptee’s country of origin; or

    (2) nullify the facts of the adoptee’s birth history.

  6. This is what our US Congress is spending its valuable time on, eh? Too bad no one is trying to make it easier for adult immigrants to enter this country legally.

  7. Text is on Thomas now.

    The other thing I wonder about is the protection of children who are brought here for the purpose of adoption. You know, that “nonimmigrant visa” thing. If citizenship hinges on adoption, what happens to kids if their parents never complete? That’s the case for some of the adult adoptees now; this act doesn’t address their situation.

    USCIS involvement has to do with ensuring the child was eligible for adoption and that the parents were fit. Citizenship is just a by-product and problems with adoptee citizenship could be addressed without addressing immigration.

  8. Resistance,
    I have been trying to read the document, and as you point out, it is not nearly half of all children arriving on an IR-4, also, you don’t wait for the CoC to arrive in the mail is you have to apply due to other reasons than the current system, that is an in person appointment, i wonder who wrote this, maybe I am a little tired, there seems to be quite a bit of twisted information in this.
    Yes, I also wonder what happens to kids sent for adoption, who are under guardianship such as Hong Kong’s program?
    A current homestudy that expires within 18 months is required for adoption in NY state. I don’t know about other states. But what I always wonder is, how do so many children end up in circumstances where homestudies and social workers failed to safeguard the child. Seems there should be a better way to do this.

  9. “If some APs already have it in their mind that their internationally adopted children aren’t really immigrants, and I agree this is too common, this bill probably won’t change anything.”

    It institutionalizes the attitude.

    “It also doesn’t really erase the original birth country status as durgamom commented.”

    Here’s an example. Sometimes passports issued by the sending country facilitate obtaining additional rights and privileges in the sending country later on in life. If the bill renders the child obtaining a passport of the sending country moot, then yes, birth country status is affected no matter how much Americans construe it to the contrary.

  10. hey Durgamom, you are right, my kids get more time than I do on their visas when we visit, that would probably change.

  11. These issues are very complicated.

    I know the rules for China during the time we adopted – at that time [to Kathy] — if both parents traveled, it was true that all you had to do for an adoption from China was get the CoC in the mail.

    I believe that part of the issue has been whether the 1st country calls an adoption “final” in that country. China did at that time, if both parents traveled, hence the automatic CoC that applied to us.

    Adoptions earlier on might have resulted in automatic citizenship, but not a CoC to prove it – ridiculous but I know that a friend of mine had a child in this position and it was hard though doable to get a CoC. I think quite a few countries do not call adoptions “final” until the child is with the adoptive family for a substantial period of time, and for those children, I think, CoC has to wait until the adoption is “final”. Back when we were adopting, I remember that this was the case for some of the former Soviet countries – I don’t know about now.

    I think US states differ in the extent to which adoption is recognized as “final” if it is recogized by the 1st country, but not redone in the USA – for inheritance as well as citizenship purposes.

    This site has a lot of links that we found useful reading during the phase of readoption and getting a passport etc

  12. Just one note on the IR-4 visa stats: Ethiopia is probably poised to be one of the largest (if not the largest) sending countries in the next year or two, with Guatemala closed, China slowing waaaaay down, and Russia being so insanely expensive. Most kids adopted from Ethiopia come in on the IR-4 as the adoption is finalized in the courts there before the adoptive parents ever set foot in country.

    I know there are concerns about the bill (although trafficking- I hadn’t considered that one…could you elaborate a bit? U.S. citizens living abroad still need a homestudy to adopt…) but my cynicism lies with USCIS viewing adoption as an easy way to bring in cash from adoptive families in the first place. The all-important Certificate of Citizenship? A whopping $420 EACH. We’ve got two (adopted) kids, so we need to hand over $800+ for two fancy pieces of paper in case they get pulled over for driving with a broken taillight or some other absurd crime one day in the future. The system needs to change somehow.

    That said, I wish the system could change for ALL immigrants. I teach English to speakers of other languages, and many of my students are undocumented. I’ve literally had nightmares involving one of them being deported and their kids being left behind in the States. Unfortunately, adult immigrants are viewed as a threat, poised to steal jobs and health care and other benefits from paranoid and insecure American isolationists, while my children are not. Although I support rights for undocumented immigrants, I don’t think that adopted children should have to wait for the nation to come around on the issue (which may never happen) to be granted reasonable rights to citizenship of their own.

  13. One of the reasons some adoptive parents want this bill passed is so HIV+ kids will no longer require a waiver. (Although I’d note the Obama administration has indicated its intent to lift the ban on HIV+ immigrants.)

    Citizenship for adopted kids is actually very privileged in comparison to other immigrants, who pay many more fees in addition to the Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization. (Certificate of Naturalization is also more expensive.) In any event, I object to people talking about the “fairness” of a system with regard to bio v. adopted children when they aren’t addressing systemic inequality with regard to other immigrants. Bio children of naturalized parents have to pay for the Certificate of Citizenship. No fair!

    Also, as durgamom points out, this may affect adopted children with regard to their home country’s rights. NRIs are entitled to specific rights not extended to the public at large; I suspect that may be more difficult if the child’s initial citizenship is erased.

  14. I just read the whole bill, and it seems to sufficiently answer any of the concerns of Resist Racism and other commentors — it does not ignore, diminish, or in any way replace the birth history of a foreign born child, it just allows them to be considered a life-long citizen (citizen from birth) once they are adopted by US citizens. They still will have an original birth certificate, medical history, etc. in their birth country (most US adoptive parents have copies or certified originals of these). This offers the child the opportunities as any other American child. Otherwise, they enter on an immigrant visa and can obtain citizenship but never the full rights of a citizen born to US parents. It basically says “you’re parent/parents are Americans so you are too, period”. It does not take away requirements for BCIS and other criminal background checks and homestudies — just transfers all the decision-making to the Department of State, removing immigration offices from the process. It makes a lot of sense. It seems, from reading it firsthand, that it is what would be best for a child and their rights and they grow up.

  15. If it addressed our concerns, we wouldn’t have bothered with the post. In any event, I find it ironic that adoptive parents are always yelling about equal treatment for their kids, but not people of the same color or other immigrants.

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