Friday, December 11, 2009

International Adoption and Immigration

International adoption is one of the ways that immigrants enter the United States. Although some adoptees and adoptive parents would rather pretend that we are not immigrants, we share a lot with other immigrants who come alone or with their blood relatives.

Similarity in legal status
The majority of us are issued visas permitting us to enter the U.S. because an immediate relative is sponsoring our migration, just as the majority of non-adopted immigrants are. This is true even if the “relatives” are not legally related to us until the adoption is finalized. If we came to this country before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was in effect, we were permanent residents, or green-card holders, before we were naturalized (if we did change our citizenship from our original one to that of the U.S.) If we do not have U.S. citizenship before we turn 18, we also must pay approximately $1500 to be naturalized.

Some of us did not change our citizenship, so like all other non-citizens, we are deportable. Adoptees have been deported because they were not naturalized when they committed minor offenses. In extreme cases, even citizenship may possibly be revoked.

Cultural similarities that adopted and non-adopted immigrants share
If our features show origins in Asia or the Americas, we always will be perpetual foreigners. We will have to legitimize our Americaness to doubters who believe “American” means white or Black. We will hear racist insults and ignorant comments. We are just as likely to be profiled by authorities or become victims of hate crimes as non-adopted immigrants.

As adults we may prefer to live apart from the mainstream and within ethnic enclaves with others who share our nationality. These communities offer a respite from dealing with racism and stereotypes. They also supply cultural necessities. But often these neighborhoods lack the best amenities like parks, good schools, proximity to work, access to transportation, quality retail stores, well-stocked supermarkets, and other services which cater to the privileged.

Some of us may need to learn English when we arrive here. Like other children who immigrate to the U.S., our success in school may depend on good services for English language learners. If our communities include large populations of immigrants, services are much more likely to be in place, better equipped and experienced in providing language support for newly arrived school-age international adoptees.

The immigration debate and the adoption community
The anti-immigrant tone of the nativist side of the debate hurts adoptees. Xenophobia does not distinguish adoption-based immigration from other family based immigration. Hateful rhetoric citing unauthorized immigration and undocumented foreign nationals creates a hostile environment for any immigrant who may “look illegal”. For those of us from Asia and Latin America, this is especially true.

Joining the cause for immigrant rights
For these reasons and more, the international adoption community should engage in the discussion about immigration. We should be activists and advocate for immigration reform that is fair and humane. We should demand reform which ensures a way for all immigrants to enter and live with dignity in this country. This includes authorizing the undocumented, creating fair family reunification legislation, and support for immigrants once they arrive here.


  1. I hear you on the "look illegal" part, I was talking to this white person online and they wanted to hear my voice, I declined. They told me they wanted to know if I spoke English well before they met me, I was like wtf,lol.

    I have subscribed to your blog, I look forward to reading more of your blog posts. ^_^


  2. Would it be possible for me to post this article in its entirety on my blog, with a link back to your blog? It's a message that adoptive parents need to hear. Thanks in advance for considering it.

  3. Thanks very much! I'll circle back with a link when it's been posted.

  4. Hi, just wanted to let you know that I have reposted this article:

    Thanks very much!

  5. I totally get the point of this article but American does not mean "white or Black". Black Americans are also perceived as not true Americans by many. And like adoptees when they talk about this country being built by those who wanted to immigrate, they were not talking about African-Americans who like adoptees involuntarily came to this country historically.