The Adoptee Citizenship Act
CURRENT ACA STATUS
We are currently working with members of Congress to help advance a bill for citizenship for all adoptees. Our focus is on helping to educate about this issue and build legislative support to ensure the bill remains inclusive.
In the meantime, Adoptees For Justice is also working to continue constituent and organizational support for this legislation.
Passing legislation is a long process and many adoptees remain at risk of losing access to critical services and rights. We strive to support adoptees without citizenship in their individual situations and continue to fight for justice.
adoptee citizenship overview
Since 1948, over 500,000 children have been adopted from abroad by U.S. citizen parents with the promise of a better life (Boone, 2019). They were to be adopted into a new family and receive citizenship. However, some of these adoptees’ parents did not complete the necessary processes to provide their adopted children with citizenship or, in many cases, even a green card. The adoptive systems failed to protect the very children they intended to protect.
As a result, an estimated thousands of legally adopted individuals who were born before February 27, 1982 and raised in the United States and/or did not enter the country on an “orphan visa” do not have U.S. citizenship and are therefore potentially subject to deportation. There are 18,603 Korean American adoptees alone who do not have American citizenship according to the Korean Health Ministry. A number of deportations of individuals who were legally adopted from foreign countries have already taken place, breaking up families and returning the deported individuals to places where they do not know the language, culture or have any known family members.
Individuals who do not have citizenship were adopted from countries including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Germany, Guatemala, El Salvador, India, Ireland, Haiti, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, and Vietnam.
Citizenship is a civil right of all children adopted by a U.S. citizen parent. Children adopted by U.S. citizen parents should have the same rights as children of U.S. citizens. This civil right should be protected by legislation that provides automatic citizenship for all adult adoptees whose adoptive parents did not complete the naturalization process while they were children.
Adoptee Citizenship Legislative History
ACA of 2018
The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018 was introduced with bipartisan support in the House (H.R.5233) and Senate (S.2522) on March 8, 2018. However, this bill was not as an inclusive bill as the previous versions and did not cover some of the most impacted adoptees without citizenship. The ACA of 2018 was not referred out of committee before the end of the session.
ACA of 2015-16
Two bills which would have granted citizenship to all adult adoptees were introduced with bipartisan support in the 114th Congress: the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015 (S.2275) and the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2016 (H.R.5454). Neither bill was referred out of committee for a Congressional vote.
Both bills sought to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to grant automatic citizenship to all qualifying children adopted by a U.S. citizen parent, regardless of the date on which the adoption was finalized or of the entrance visa. Citizenship would be granted to any individual who was adopted by a U.S. citizen before age 18, was physically present in the United States in the citizen parent’s legal custody pursuant to a lawful admission before the individual reached age 18, never previously acquired U.S. citizenship, and was lawfully residing in the United States. The bills would have also given adult adoptees who had already been deported the opportunity to return to the United States.
CLAA of 2013
The Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment (S.Amdt.1222 to S.744) was sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La), an adoptive parent. The bill passed the Senate on June 27, 2013 but ultimately failed to pass the House.
The Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment to the new immigration bill would extend citizenship to adoptees who are not covered by the Child Citizenship Act. This includes adoptees who do not meet the age ceiling of the CCA. According to Senate records, this was also intended to cover deported adoptees, adoptees with families living abroad, and adoptees in which only one parent visited the sending country during the adoption process.
CCA OF 2000
This bill was originally named the Adopted Orphans Act in both the House and Senate. It aimed to provide equal treatment under United States law for adopted and biological children by granting citizenship to internationally-born adoptees. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was passed in the House (H.R. 2883) and Adopted Orphans Act passed in the Senate (S.1485) of that year. However, when the act became law, it did not apply to internationally-born adoptees who were already over the age of 18. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is known as Public Law 106-395, and is codified at 8 U.S.C. §§ 1431-33.