March 14, 2012
The petition in support of citizenship for all intercountry adoptees sponsored by Korean Focus in November 2011 (text below) is now on its way to each of the 161 members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. In sending the petition and the names of its supporters to the CCA, KF urges these legislators to take immediate action to stop adoptee deportations (including that of Russell Green, an adoptee from Korea who is facing deportation now), to work to change the laws that lead to them, and to return deported adoptees to the United States. KF will post responses from the CCA here and on the Korean Focus Facebook page as we receive them. Visit the Citizenship page for more citizenship-related resources.
November 7, 2011
Korean Focus is sponsoring a petition to raise awareness and accountability among adoptive parents, adoption organizations and legislators around the issue of intercountry adoptee citizenship. Beforer and since the passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, a number of intercountry adoptees have learned that, contrary to their belief, citizenship was neither granted to them nor obtained on their behalf by their adoptive parents. These adoptees are at risk of deportation or exile abroad.
Korean Focus’s petition seeks to raise awareness of this issue and give everyone who supports citizenship for all adoptees, including those who did not receive it through the CCA 2000, an opportunity to voice their opinion. Please sign to show your support, and share the link with your organizations, friends and the media: http://www.change.org/petitions/citizenship-for-all-us-intercountry-adoptees
Text of the petition follows.
“The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of American citizens to acquire American citizenship automatically. These children did not acquire American citizenship at birth, but they are granted citizenship when they enter the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPRs).” U.S. Department of State
One of the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA 2000) was that the adoptee be under the age of 18 on its effective date, February 27, 2001. International adoptees 18 and older were not granted citizenship under its provisions. Some, but not all, obtained citizenship through their own efforts or those of their adoptive parents. Of those who did not, many were unaware that they lacked this legal protection.
Being without citizenship while believing they possessed it placed these intercountry adoptees at risk of violating U.S Federal law through no fault of their own by representing themselves as citizens upon return to the United States at any port of entry (including Canada and Mexico), applying for public benefits (including Federal education aid), or voting in Federal or other elections.
Further, strict immigration policies under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 increased the risk of deportation. This law does not provide for “discretionary relief,” which would allow the unique circumstances that led to an adoptee’s lack of citizenship to be taken into consideration in determining outcomes. Adoptees have faced deportation and have been deported to countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe – countries unknown to them in every way: language, culture, family or friends. Additionally, adoptees without citizenship who travel to their countries of birth may be subject to laws there that prevent their return to the United States.
Reliable statistics for adoptee deportation do not exist, but individual cases demonstrate the complexity of the issue and the staggering emotional impact to adoptees and their families, as demonstrated by these examples, which are just a few of the cases that have occurred:
Joao Herbert was adopted from Brazil at the age of eight by a family in Ohio. A charge for attempting to sell marijuana, although a first offense, landed him in immigration detention, after which he was deported to Brazil in 2000. Joao Herbert was murdered in Brazil in May 2004.
Korean adoptee Matthew Scherer learned he lacked citizenship when he applied for a U.S. passport. He subsequently obtained permanent resident status, but upon traveling to Korea was identified by the Korean government by his original Korean name and now is blocked by Korean law from returning to the U.S. and threatened with conscription into the Korean army.
Jennifer Haynes was adopted at eight from India and sexually abused by her adoptive father, after which she passed through 50 foster homes on her way to adulthood. Married to a U.S. citizen and mother of two young children, Haynes was nonetheless deported to India in 2008.
Adopted as a toddler from Thailand in 1979 by a family in Florida, John Gaul completed a sentence for theft and check fraud in 1996 after the new immigration law went into effect. A judge was prevented under the new law from acknowledging adoption as an extenuating circumstance, and he was deported to Thailand in 1999.
Tatiana Mitrohina was born in Russia in 1978 with physical deformities that led to her adoption at fourteen to California. She suffered from childhood-related PTSD and postpartum depression. Following a charge of abuse of her son, the court recommended counseling and medication, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement have detained her in preparation for deportation.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states in Article 21(c):
“States Parties that recognize and/or permit the system of adoption shall ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration and they shall:
(c) Ensure that the child concerned by inter-country adoption enjoys safeguards and standards equivalent to those existing in the case of national adoption;”
The legal protection of citizenship in the country to which an adoptee was brought and in which he or she was raised is the most important such safeguard, as it is the only safeguard that provides lifelong legal status. It should be enjoyed by all intercountry adoptees, just as it is enjoyed by adoptees born as U.S. citizens and adopted within the United States.
We the undersigned therefore demand that the United States Congress:
1. Amend the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 to immediately grant U.S. citizenship to all intercountry adoptees not included in its provisions.
2. Following the granting of citizenship, direct appropriate U.S. government agencies to:
a) Assist intercountry adoptees with obtaining proof of citizenship.
b) Provide intercountry adoptees traveling overseas with the permits required to allow their reentry into the United States.
c) Return all deported intercountry adoptees to the United States, regardless of the cause of deportation.
We look to the co-chairs (Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator James M. Inhofe, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman Karen Bass) and members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, who promote adoption in the United States and therefore bear a particular responsibility to ensure that U.S. adoption laws protect their primary constituency, to lead the effort to correct the denial of this important safeguard.