Despite their adoption to the United States as children, many intercountry adoptees have significant issues today related to citizenship.
Those issues are typically two-fold:
- Securing U.S. Citizenship. Tens of thousands of intercountry adoptees today do not have US citizenship, despite being adopted as children by US citizen parents.
- Proving U.S. Citizenship. Even if intercountry adoptees have acquired U.S. citizenship automatically under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, many don’t have proof of that citizenship, either through a US passport or a Certificate of Citizenship.
The Equal Citizenship for Children Act (2023) address adoption and US citizenship, including how Congress should fix a loophole that currently denies US citizenship to thousands of intercountry adopted people.
What is the Equal Citizenship for Children Act and what does it do?
Introduced in 2023 by Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-09) and Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12), the Equal Citizenship for Children Act would amend current US immigration law so that those who were or are under 18 years of age and residing in the United States in the legal custody of a US citizen parent (whether adoptive or biological children) would automatically acquire US citizenship, retroactive to those born after 12:00pm EST on January 9, 1941. The person, while under the age of 18, must also have been residing in the United States as a legal permanent resident (i.e., possessed a green card) or had a “pending application to adjust status to lawful permanent resident.”
The key provision in the ECCA for intercountry adoptees is retroactivity, which would assure US citizenship for intercountry adoptees so long as they had met the requirements of the Act while under the age of 18. Presumably, this would include previously deported adoptees (though this may be complicated). It would not, however, apply to intercountry adoptees or others who arrived in the United States on a non-immigrant visa (e.g., a tourist/visitor visa) and who did not obtain a green card while under the age of 18. The act also dispenses with a requirement of physical custody of the child with their US citizen parent(s), and clarifies the definition of a child to include 1) “the nonmarital child of a legal custodian citizen father” and 2) the child of a US citizen parent if the parent-child relationship is recognized under US or foreign parentage laws.
The National Alliance for Adoptee Equality (NAAE), a network of community organizations coming together to strengthen advocacy and advance a legislative solution to citizenship inequalities among international adoptees.
Many intercountry adoptees lack citizenship despite having been adopted as children by American citizens.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 automated the citizenship process and granted citizenship retroactively to adoptees who were affected—except for those who had reached 18 years before the enactment date. The abrupt transition of responsibility for naturalization placed many adoptees in legal limbo.
Citizenship and nationality are the fundamental human rights of all individuals.
Families who come together through adoption deserve the same rights, privileges, and security as biological families. Adoptees should receive equal legal inheritances, including insurance benefits, family name, and other assumed family rights. Adoptees who were not naturalized by their parents deserve citizenship as they legally immigrated to the U.S. as children.
The purpose of the Alliance is to advance awareness and strengthen the voice for international adoptees whose rights are impaired.
The Alliance establishes a national network of organizations and individuals who are actively supporting the passage of the Adoptee Citizenship Act.
The NAAE is led by the Korean American Grassroots Conference, Adoptee Rights Campaign, and Holt International.
It;s been 20+ years since the First Gathering(™) of Adult Korean Adoptees, held in Washington D.C.
This pioneer event was the brainchild of Susan Soon-Keum Cox.
With the financial support of Holt International in collaboration with the then Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Also-Known-As and the labor of many adoptees, it was the first time nearly 400 Korean adoptees from all over the world came together to connect, to share their experiences and for many to create a sense of community and family.
As a freshly minted social worker, IAMAdoptee co-founder, Joy Lieberthal Rho, had the opportunity to work at the EBD Adoption Institute and develop the report.
“To be in and among the words of fellow adoptees continues to be an honor. We hope you will take a few moments and read the full report and share with anyone curious about just what it means to be adopted, Korean and American.”
IAMAdoptee has so much personal love for the first gathering.
Founders Tom and Joy were members of Also-Known-As, the only adoptee organization invited to be on the planning committee for that event.
It has been over 20 years since the first group of international adoptees began to create organizations centered around the lived experience of being adopted.
Hollee McGinnis, Founder of Also-Known-As, and Joy Lieberthal Rho, co-founder of IAMAdoptee spoke in 2016 on the already rich history of adoptee led organizations in the United States and Europe.
Special Thanks to Susan Soon-Keum Cox, Todd Kwapisz, Sandy McLaughlin, Tim Holm, Mi-Ok Bruining, Kimura Byul, Ami Nafzger, and our community of Korean adoptees and pioneers!