Over the past year, the Adoptee Rights Campaign, adoptees, and their allies have been fighting for the Adoptee Citizenship Act. This legislation would close a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which granted citizenship to all international adoptees under the age of 18 at the time of the bill’s passage and all future international adoptees adopted to U.S. parents. Since international adoption to the U.S. had been occurring en masse since the 1950s, several thousands of adoptees were not covered by the Child Citizenship Act.
The Adoptee Citizenship Act would grant retroactive citizenship to adoptees who were not covered under the previous bill. Although the onus of securing citizenship for adoptees was previously on adoptive parents, there was no clear and standardized communication to adoptive parents about the need to naturalize their adopted children. As a result, many did not know that they should naturalize their children. Instead, they assumed that their children would share in their American citizenship. Even for those who did begin the process to naturalize, due to the chaotic and disjointed system, communication between parents and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services was irregular and infrequent. Currently, there are an estimated 35,000 adoptees without citizenship.
On Thursday, December 1, I joined about 20 other adoptees and allies on Capitol Hill to lobby for the Adoptee Citizenship Act. Throughout the day we had briefings with Representatives’ and Senators’ staff and held a press conference featuring two adoptees without citizenship, Joy, adopted from Korea, and Chris, adopted during the Vietnam Baby Lift.
As I listened to Joy and Chris’ stories, I was both saddened and shocked. Saddened because they are both in precarious positions and risk being separated from their families – the families they were adopted into and the families that they have started. Shocked because of the utter disorganization, misinformation, and mixed messages of the U.S. government and adoption agencies. While I understand that it was parents’ responsibility to find out if their children had U.S. citizenship and then to naturalize their child AND I get that adoptees, who are now adults, could pursue naturalization on their own, there is a deep feeling of displacement that I feel as an adoptee when thinking about this very material evidence of our liminality.
Transnational transracial adoptees often share this feeling of being between spaces, places, and people. In the case of adoptees without citizenship, these feelings take a palpable form. It feels as if it is not only our American-ness that is in peril in this very concrete way but also our place in our own families.
By the end of our day on Capitol Hill, I felt proud of the ongoing work that the Adoptee Rights Campaign is doing and that I was able to contribute. Lending my voice to raise awareness of the Adoptee Citizenship Act is part of the responsibility I have as a fellow adoptee. Here’s to continuing to fight for our rights to U.S. citizenship.
Get involved! Visit the Adoptee Rights Campaign for more info!