All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees

The thing is: you’re adoptees.

You were brought to the United States from another country to become the adopted child of US citizens. And now you’re an adult, raised in America.  You speak only English. You went to school here and worked here. You know only your American family and friends.

The State Department website tells adoptive parents:

“It is important to ensure that your adopted child becomes a U.S. citizen. If you postpone documenting or obtaining your child’s citizenship, later he or she may have difficulty getting college scholarships, working legally, voting, and enjoying other rights and privileges.”

But wait: there’s more. Adoptees can be deported.

For all its rhetoric and posturing across the political spectrum about the value of adoption, the US Congress has failed miserably in supporting internationally adopted children.

Let’s review here: A child arrives in the US from Korea, India, Brazil, or another far off place with a different language, culture, food, music, customs, holidays, history. The child is adopted by US citizens. So of course the child automatically becomes a US citizen too, right?

Nope. Certainly not if he or she had the poor timing to be adopted prior to 2000, when the Child Citizenship Act became law. That law, which I (along with many other people) worked on and supported, means that (most) internationally adopted children can automatically become US citizens, if they arrived after February 27, 2001. There is still paperwork involved, of course.

Children arriving on IR-4 visas before or after the CCA must follow a different route, and that’s significant. But citizenship is achievable.

For those thousands and thousands of adoptees who arrived here before the CCA, the process was not so streamlined or automatic. Some parents failed to get their kids US citizenship. Some adoption agencies could have done a better job providing information about the value of citizenship. (And this is still an issue now for those IR-4 visas.)

It was a huge oversight.

An immigration law passed by Congress in 1996 had among its many clauses the possibility of deportation for non-US citizens who commit a felony, including non-violent crimes. There have been adoptees who have committed felonies. I’m not condoning the commission of crimes.

But these adoptees were brought to the US for purposes of adoption by US citizens. They most likely thought they were citizens–seems reasonable. And now, after being raised in America, after serving their sentences, they can be deported to their country of origin–where often they know no one, don’t speak the language, have little chance of getting work, and can never return to the United States.

This has already happened to several adoptees.  One died at 26 after being sent back to Brazil, having been raised in Ohio from the age of 8, after a first time marijuana conviction. The plight of others has prompted petitions. Russell Green was the subject of at least one. The most recent in the news was Kairi Shepherd, and there are many more pending. Many folks, especially adult adoptees, have been working very hard to fix this absurd situation. The Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative has been among the leaders in this movement.

We don’t deport US citizens who have committed crimes, even if we’d like to. Deporting the internationally adopted children of US citizens is an insult to the integrity of adoption and to the reality of adoptive families.

Congress has been (astonishingly? unsurprisingly? shamefully?) slow to rectify this. Consider contacting the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and your Senator and Representative. Ask them to move on legislation that is fair, humane, and overdue: US citizenship for internationally adopted children, regardless of when they arrived.

A nod to Woody Guthrie for the title of this blog  post.

13 thoughts on “All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees

  1. Pingback: Phillip Clay, Deported Korean Adoptee, Reported to Have Died By Suicide | Light of Day Stories

  2. I’d like to republish this at American Indian Adoptee blog, with your permission. Let me know (larahentz@yahoo.com)

  3. The path to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship is cost prohibitive if you have more than one adopted child!

  4. Pingback: The Deportation of International Adoptees Must Stop | Light of Day Stories

  5. This is very scary. As it happens, I have a son whom we adopted at age 9 mos. from Vietnam. He was made a U.S. citizen when he was ten, and I lost his citizenship certificate years ago. I don’t know if the gov’t keeps a record of who was made a citizen over 30 years ago, and I’m afraid to ask. My son has been convicted of felonies, and the thought of his deportation is terrifying to me. So far, so good, but this worry hovers at the back of my mind.

  6. Pingback: CHIFF Is Dead: A Post-Mortem | Light of Day Stories

  7. Pingback: Good links worth the time… | The adopted ones blog

  8. I hope to because I need help with my son.
    How immigration deported young people they grew here in the US ?
    Shame on immigration they no have respect for family why take my son from his girl’s
    I hope someone help the law change for the adults adoptees because this is a shame is like the adult adoptees no have no right.

  9. This has already happened to several adoptees. One died at 26 after being sent back to Brazil, having been raised in Ohio from the age of 8, after a first time marijuana conviction.
    David costa Drouin age 4 adopted by American citizen came to the US age 5 now David will be deported to Brazil like Joao Herbert the boy from Ohio will be kill in Brazil just like Joao shame on American Immigration adoptees should never deported.David have ADD, he is bipolar to yes he abuse drugs to cope with stress but he is a good man married with 2 beautiful girl’s why brake
    David family? Send David to Brazil cause streamy hardship for him and his hole family.

    • Lucia, it’s heartbreaking and wrong that this should happen. I can tell you that there does seem to be some action, some movement, in the US Congress, and that lots of folks are working on the citizenship law. I’m hoping for good news sooner rather than later.

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