How many more?

Internationally-adopted adults:  Make sure you have your citizenship papers.  Ethica provides a guide to citizenship here (pdf file).  Parents of children adopted internationally:  If you do not have your child’s certificate of citizenship and passport, get them now.

This is an update on the 2009 story about an adult adopted person who was first deported in 2002 for marijuana possession.  According to the article, his parents attempted to obtain citizenship in 1987 (when he was 13) but never completed the process.

Although the Child Citizenship Act conferred “automatic” citizenship on some international adoptees, there are still thousands who do not qualify.  Adoptees who were 18 or over as of the effective date (February 27, 2001) were excluded and still need to go through the naturalization process.  This undoubtedly affects tens of thousands of adopted persons.  (Estimates for adoption from Korea range from 100,000-150,000; significant numbers of Korean children were adopted beginning in the 1950’s and adoption from Korea is ongoing.)

Additionally, it is not true that all children adopted after the effective date of the Child Citizenship Act are “automatic” citizens. This is one of the most widely-held and widely-promulgated erroneous beliefs about the CCA.  In order to obtain citizenship under the act, the child must have met these conditions:  (1) have at least one U.S. citizen parent, (2) be under 18 years of age as of 02/27/2001, (3) live in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent and (4) be admitted as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.  The adoption must also be considered “full and final” for CIS purposes.

So who would not become a citizen under the act?

  • Children whose adoptions were disrupted or dissolved before citizenship was acquired (e.g. Jennifer Haynes).
  • Adopted persons who were 18 on or before February 27, 2001.
  • Children who were not lawful permanent residents at the time of adoption (Neidy Elizabeth Collar).
  • Children who arrived using humanitarian parole visas (Allie Mulvihill, children from Haiti following the earthquake)
  • Children who travel on an IR4 or IH4 visa*.  That was 4,761 children in 2009,  4,136 in 2010.

*Note that people often distinguish between the IR3 and the IR4 (or IH3 and IH4) by saying it’s whether one or two parents traveled (for a two-parent family).  This is because the CIS requirement is that both parents must have seen the child prior to the adoption.  Although some countries, such as China, consider the adoption “full and final” even when only one parent of a two-parent family appears in country, the CIS does not consider it so.

I believe that children who are adopted by U.S. citizens but who reside outside of the U.S. are required to fulfill different requirements for citizenship as well.

So vulnerable parties include adoptees born on or before February 27, 1983, children with disrupted adoptions, undocumented children, humanitarian parole visas (1,000+ for Haiti) and children who travel on the IR4 or IH4.  How many of those parents were negligent?  Nobody knows.  KAD nexus has made some estimates based on population samples.  I think the number could easily be in the tens of thousands.  My somewhat dour expectation is reinforced by the number of adoptive parents I meet who do not understand the provisions of the CCA and the agency representatives who have stated that getting the Certificate of Citizenship is optional, even for IR4 visa holders.  Not to mention all those parents who have lost their adoption paperwork.

So how many more deportations will we see?  The number of deportations overall has been increasing.

The South Korean Consulate is appealing for leniency in the case of another adult adoptee with a U.S. deportation order.  She initially got into trouble in 1997 when she was 30, disappeared and was subsequently found and re-arrested some 13 years later.  She is being detained and was served with deportation orders on Feb. 24.

(The English-language article can be found here, although it appears to have some translation errors.  The original article in Korean is here.  Maybe one of the lovely bilingual people who hang out here can provide a better translation.  Note that in the original article, a member of the consulate expresses concern that the parents of internationally adopted children are not acquiring their children’s citizenship.)

The other adoptee previously reported about no longer has a deportation order pending.  However, no word on whether or not she is still being detained or whether she has been released.

The general public and the adoptive community also mistakenly believe that adoption law changed in 2004, when the Certificate of Citizenship became “automatic.”  It is true that after January 20, 2004,* children who were adopted overseas and met the conditions of the CCA did receive the Certificate of Citizenship automatically, usually within 45 days of arrival.  However, it is not true that “all children” receive the certificate automatically, or that “all children” received citizenship after that date.  Specifically, IR4 or IH4 visa holders do not obtain citizenship until additional requirements (usually readoption) are met.  Children who were adopted prior to that date will have to apply for the certificate.

*I actually know a few families who received the COC a few days before that date.  Who knows why.

In any event, as the deportation of citizens has proved, citizenship without proof of citizenship isn’t sufficient.  Get that certificate.  And the passport.

[Note:  Do not comment if you are “whitesplaining” and do not know jack about the CCA or the law.  I am sick of adoptive parents who think they know the law and speak authoritatively without knowing anything.  In real life, be forewarned it’s all gloves off.]

9 thoughts on “How many more?

  1. An excellent summary. Can you explain why children with disrupted adoptions are at risk? Does disruption negate citizenship in someway? Or were you referring to disruptions of those who also didn’t qualify under the CCA?

    Both of my children have their CoC, but we have recently been discussing going the extra step and readopting for the simple reason that US documents can be replaced, but foreign ones cannot. On the off chance a tornado takes out our safe deposit box, it seems like a good idea. Better safe than sorry.

  2. Something else that’s worth mentioning and remembering. For those APs who got a Social Security card for their children prior to getting the CoC, they need to take the CoC into the SS office and have the child’s status changed from legal resident to US Citizen. It does make some difference in benefits, should the child be in a situation to receive them, but I am not certain what that difference is.

  3. If parents did not complete the adoption or terminate before the child has received citizenship, the child is at risk because adoption is one of the easier ways to acquire citizenship. If the child’s life is unstable, undoubtedly nobody is following up on the citizenship aspect. Indeed, it may not occur to anybody in the system.

    If you read the cases of adult adoptees who face or have been deported, there are quite a few who had unstable home lives. Parents died or divorced, were financially insecure, etc. Or adoptions were disrupted and the guardian never filed for citizenship.

    Agencies should be requiring that parents provide proof of citizenship after adoption. They should put some teeth in the requirement by withholding substantial amounts of money, like they do for post-placement compliance.

  4. “Agencies should be requiring that parents provide proof of citizenship after adoption.”

    Yes. It’s that simple. CLEARLY APs are not getting this right on their own. The agencies NEED to step up and require this.

  5. My kids have their CoC’s, but… can you comment on the situation of recently adopted children, traveled on a IR-4 visa, have been readopted in the US, and have a US passport, but no CoC? I know a lot, a lot of families who believe this is enough. I don’t understand the law well enough to know if they are right or not. (I’ve read a lot about the law, I just find legal issues confusing.)

  6. Hi Shrijnana, the CIS will not know the child’s change of status unless it has been notified. So the child (later to become an adult) will not have a CIS file indicating citizenship. If IR4 or IH4 children don’t apply for citizenship, they will have no way of knowing whether the CIS acknowledges they have met the requirements.

    Additionally, the CIS adjudicates citizenship independent of the State Department. And sometimes it takes a long time. There is a WWII veteran’s son who has been waiting more than three years for a determination.

    Passports expire; the certificate of citizenship does not. For practical reasons, two proofs of citizenship are desirable because sometimes one has to be sent away. Also often idiots require two.

    Adopted children will become adults, and who knows if they will keep valid passports. Who knows if their adoption paperwork will be lost. Adjudicating citizenship without documentation is a lengthy process, one you might not want to undergo while you are being detained.

    Short answer: Maintaining a current passport and the certificate of citizenship should be mandatory for all adoptive parents.

  7. Thanks, that does help. My husband is a US immigrant so I know a lot about how inefficient and arbitrary CIS can be. The way things SHOULD happen are often a far cry from the way things DO happen. I think about how long parents wait for their babies and toddler’s CoC’s to arrive… who’d want to wait that long when their teenager or young adult needs the CoC while awaiting trial? I think we all assume our children won’t get into any legal trouble so proving citizenship won’t be necessary. But who’s perfect? And many fine, upstanding citizens have been falsely accused and convicted. It’s folly to think our children would be immune from this. Maybe it’s another example of white privilege, not preparing for biases and inequities in the legal system.

    Your point about requiring duplicate proof of citizenship is well-taken, I haven’t yet obtained a passport for my younger son (he’s 2); money has been tight and I prioritized the CoC. But I’m off to download the application now.

    And yes, why don’t agencies emphasize this? Mine was among the better agencies, and they helped with many post adoption issues, but didn’t emphasize this.

  8. I should note that while proof of citizenship is obviously important in deportation proceedings, there are also lots of other mundane, everyday needs for it. Driver’s license in some states, benefits (Medicare, Medicaid, SS, food assistance), jobs, college apps … there are probably more I can’t think of.

    Also, the State Department has been requesting the certificate of citizenship for adopted children’s passports since approximately 2005. It used to be that the adoption paperwork could be submitted. I do not know if there was a policy change but the COC is now listed on the informational website; it wasn’t previously.

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