Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adopted boy at center of immigration dispute

The case is more than tragic, argued the Guatemalan ambassador to the United States — it's a symbol of the ongoing national and international debate about what to do with immigration policy in America. "We believe this is a very unfortunate result of the problems of immigration policy in this country," said Ambassador Francisco Villagran de Leon, who attended the arguments before the court and has been providing support to Romero. "Children of undocumented immigrants should not be given up in adoption just because they are here illegally." Romero was one of 136 alleged undocumented immigrants picked up at a raid of a Barry County chicken processing plant in May 2007 and later charged with various offenses related to the illegal use of false or stolen Social Security numbers. While Romero was in jail, her child, an infant at the time, was passed around among family members before eventually being adopted privately by the Mosers.

The full article is here.

Thanks to Ethica.

Monday, October 11, 2010

La MesaPatch's adoptee story problematic

This article bothers me a lot.

The story which put me on the defensive early into the article was this one:
His knowledge of American culture was even shakier. So when his first term paper in European history came back with a red-penciled B, the 16-year-old had no idea what it meant. In Korea, grades were percentages—100%, 90%, 80%, etc.
"I didn't want to reveal how stupid I was," said Spackman, who today turned 71 and Saturday was inducted into his alma mater's Hall of Honor. But a "beautiful blonde" nearby had an A, and "she's too pretty to be smart."
Spackman surmised that A stood for average—and B "must mean bad."
How cute! The socially inept Asian male who of course finds the blonde beautiful. Later the article says that he was rendered mute by a beauty queen (presumably white) so on TV he became the stereotypical bumbling dorky Asian kid. Awwww! What a heartwarming story!

It glorifies the 1950s and the Eisenhower era as some utopia. Remember the 1950s? Conform to white, middle class, hetero-normative, nuclear family ideals, or else! Forget about the codified racism of the era because we could leave our doors unlocked. Nevermind the establishment of the domination of the "military industrial complex" (Eisenhower's own words) that now is symbolized by firms like Haliburton. Oh, and remember the H-bomb and nuclear attack drills in schools? What a idyllic time that was!

It says that "in 1951, getting permission to emigrate wasn't easy." That's quite an understatement! In fact it was impossible. Racist quotas were in place from 1923-1965 which allowed only Europeans to immigrate to the U.S. And, only northern or western Europeans at that. No Italians, Greeks, Poles, or Russians permitted! (Western hemisphere (Latin American) immigration was unrestricted then but that's a matter for another post)

Other problems with this article:
  • It does it does a lot to validate the model minority myth of the studious Asian who learns English in a matter of months and excels academically.
  • It calls James an orphan although it says that he was separated from his mother.
  • It presents success as corporate success.
  • It presents racial isolation as a good experience.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Missouri high court to consider immigrant adoption case

The Associated Press
The Missouri Supreme Court agreed this week to review the case of a woman from Guatemala who said she never consented to her son's adoption while she was in jail for immigration violations.

The boy, now nearly 4, was adopted in 2008 after his biological mother, Encarnacion M. Bail Romero, was caught up in an immigration sweep at a Barry County poultry plant. Romero, who has served her sentence, has been seeking custody.
An appellate court overturned a lower-court decision that gave custody to adoptive parents Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage, Mo.
The appeals panel said the lower court lacked authority to grant the adoption and cited state laws that were intended "to prohibit the indiscriminate transfer of children, meaning that someone could not pass a child around like chattel."
At the time of Romero's arrest, her son was being cared for by her family members. After her arrest, those relatives sought help from a Carthage couple, according to the appeals decision.
That couple took care of the baby during the week and returned him to his aunt on the weekend.
In September 2007, the Carthage couple heard the Mosers were looking to adopt. After a 10-day visitation period, the child went to live with the Mosers in October 2007, according to the appeals decision.
Read more:


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Creating a Market

This post relayed this article

In related Ethiopia news is this post from the same blog.

JUN 3, 2010
Heidi R. Weimer

The elephant in the room for everyone primping themselves in this web site is the fact that the standard of living of the first world and the maintenance of that lifestyle is a direct cause of the misery for the rest of the planet. To then adopt from the world wrecked directly and indirectly by the policies, wars, sanctions, invasions, assassinations, and evil of an Anglo-American world system is adding insult to injury. Your battle starts at home; start waging it there and leave us alone. And stop begging for cash. It's really unbecoming of First Worldists. --Ibn Zayd
Mr. Zayd's posts are pointed and radical, and I don't know how he finds all the articles and blogs he reviews and rebuts, but I'm usually in agreement with his assessments. 

Furthermore, I'd like to unequivocally state that that international adoption is a market. I know I've stated this before, but this article just further proves that there's no doubt about this. When adopters find the requirements or fees not to their liking in one country, or those countries close their programs because the corruption has become so rampant and obvious that it can no longer keep up the pretense that it is benefit children any longer, adopters move on to the next country. They shop adoption agencies, too. If one scrutinizes too closely or decides that its ethics will only allow a certain profile of people to adopt, then they shop around for another, more accommodating agency. Despite the feelings of adopters who feel that they are over-burdened with procedures, fees, requirements, documents, and forms none of this actually succeeds in regulating adoption. If you have enough money, the market will supply you with a child. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

RE: Indigenous Immigrants

"Well, you all are certainly entitled to your opinions, but I disagree 100%.  It has everything to do with established immigration law in the United States and those who do not abide by it.  I understand your mindset, but this is 2010, and legal immigration needs to be enforced.  It's not just about Mexico, although they are the biggest offenders.  I think the US should follow Canada's model considering immigration.  

"I think we've allowed the Illegal Immigrants to take over our country and our system.  Why the hell do I have to press 1 now for English?  Consider how well you would fare if you decided to move to Mexico.  Believe me, they sure as hell would not learn English for you.  Or any other language aside from their own.  That is, if you managed not to get shot, or kidnapped, tortured and then brutally executed and dumped in a mass grave in the desert.  Sorry, but I do not agree with your words at all.  I really don't want that element to continue encroaching on our homeland." [Reply on Native Truth Chat list serve]
My response:

I teach English to adults. About 75% of them are from the Americas. So, they do realize that English is essentially important in this country. This is in NYC where I NEVER have to press 1 for English. I have to wait less than one second while there's a message that says "para espanol marque el dos". Two myths busted.

My students who come from the Americas, especially North America, either speak indigenous languages or are among the first or second generation to speak Spanish as their first language. They definitely have conformed to a foreign influx of immigrants and learned their language. Third myth busted.

New York City has the second highest number of Nahuatl speakers of any city, after Mexico City. Their families, up until NAFTA, lived as corn growers. Now, with subsidized U.S. corn flooding the market, they're literally starving. So, they moved from the rural country-side to Mexico City then here to NYC. To keep from dying. Yes, without legal authorization because the *legal* influx of corn and other neo-capitalist/neo-colonial practices has left them without any other choice.

As for crime, let's be real- it's the U.S. hunger for narcotics that fuels the trade and US anti-drug laws that makes them lucrative to sell. The ancient use of coca and marihuana, btw, wasn't a problem until 1) exploited by the enslaving colonial/white elites to subdue Indians and 2) distilled, modified, and used out of its traditional context when it passed from being used for ceremonial or pragmatic reasons to recreational for non-Natives.

My Guatemalan students are here for much of the same reasons that the Mexican students are here plus attest to the continued genocide going on there perpetuated by U.S. interests. I don't have roots in this country or continent. I was brought here by the international adoption industry (trade). That industry had, until 2 years ago, also imported tens of thousands of indigenous Mayan children to feed the market for babies. Doesn't adopting out indigenous children to white families who would raise them as white sound familiar to US Indians? "Kill the Indian, Save the Man"?

I would have preferred to stay in my native Korea, speaking Korean, but US policies, all "legal", has forced English into my mouth and me to this country. I now use the privilege that this affords me to help others gain some of that privilege, too, but I know neither I, nor the vast majority of students that I teach will ever have the same level of white privilege because white supremacist attitudes and white-washed non-white people who align themselves with this ideology.

As for Canada, their policies regarding First Nations are hardly a model to be held up as one to emulate or applaud. Their immigration policies are much broader than the U.S.' as a result it has the highest immigration rate in the world, with many unauthorized immigrants there as well. Myth 4? (I never heard the "Canada policy" argument before) busted. (Source: Wikipedia)

Actually Canada brings up an interesting case in the discussion of Native people. The Eskimo/Inuit culture spans 4 countries: Russia, U.S., Canada, and Greenland (Denmark). These political boundaries imposed by Europeans clearly demonstrate the arbitrariness of them and the disregard they have for indigenous people. The same happened in the lands that are now divided by the US/Mexico border.

Let's not get caught up in what legal and what's illegal. Slavery was legal. Segregation was legal. Marriage between a white person and a non-white person was illegal. Laws are not always just. It's still legal to take people's land if the government decides it wants to. It's legal to dump toxic waste. We could go on.

These laws, borders, rhetoric, and attitudes hurt people. Immigrants coming to the US without authorization or staying here after being issued a visa (the vast majority or "illegal" immigrants, btw) actually contributes to the economy and culture. (Source: Migration Policy Institute) I hope for a reform of US immigration policy that allows the free flow of people and labor so we can live in peace and with dignity. Our history and our mythology demand it. It's the only just thing to do. Even if it does spit in the face of white supremacy and colonialism. I hope that all non-white people come to realize that it's in our best interests rather than align ourselves with people who continue to exploit our ethnic differences for their benefit. Let's not play into the ethnic antagonism that has only helped to divide and conquer us since Columbus left Italy and immigrated to Spain.

BTW, as an advocate for immigrant rights and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) I never use the term "illegal immigrant". The community and movement uses undocumented or unauthorized. And even worse than illegal immigrant is the term illegals. That completely dehumanizes us.

The status of a person as legal or illegal is completely a matter of arbitrary chance and circumstance. Let no "American" forget that.

Indigenous Immigrants

Every time we hear a white person say "Illegal immigrant" or "illegal alien" what they are actually doing is saying "NIGGER". The term nigger is a term created by white people to demean a person of color and to lower his/her natural and inherent status, so that certain rights can be stolen. The tactic of using false labels to demean, lower and steal rights from people of color is a tactic that has been used repeatedly by white people in America since 1492. 

For example, once Native Americans were labeled as savages it justified stealing our land and murdering tens of millions of natives and enslaving the rest. Once Black people were labeled as niggers and savages they lost their rights as humans and could be owned as slaves.

Today the people being referred to today as Illegal immigrants are actually Native Americans. By branding our people as illegal immigrants, in our own land, our status is lowered and our rights can be legally are taken. We never agreed to any European borders on our land. Yet we can be dictated to by white people regarding where we can and cannot be on our own continent.

We can be jailed for being in a part of our own homeland where white people are the majority. Is it merely an accident or coincident that today nearly everybody sees the use of the term "Illegal immigrant", in referring to brown Native Americans from below the illegal border, as acceptable. No, this has been intentionally manipulated by white people. Liberals, conservatives, black people, racists, immigrant rights activists, Native Americans, news reporters, the President and even the "Illegal immigrants" themselves now think it is acceptable and proper to refer to brown NativeAmericans as "Illegal immigrants".

Let's be very clear. The people being targeted by the term "Illegal immigrant" are Brown Native Americans. The people who have created and popularized the term "Illegal immigrant" are white people. They are white supremacists to be exact whose clear motive it is to maintain an apartheid system on Native American land. The majority of people in America are Native Americans with 600 million on our continent compared to 200 million white people. However, the border at the Rio Grande River is an apartheid border and artificially maintains a white majority area in our brown Native America.

When we think of Africa most people think of a continent of brown people. When we think of America most people think of mostly white people. This is an intentional manipulation and lie. America is and will always be a brown continent. Love it or Leave it!!

So think twice before using the term "Illegal immigrant". If you are a white person using this term then you are a white supremacist. If you are a person of color using this term then you are an uncle tom supporting white supremacy.


"It is the greatest con in the world when the natives have became the illegal immigrants and the illegal immigrants have become the natives"

Friday, July 9, 2010

White-washed Adoptees

I wrote before about privilege and classism in the adoption community and our reluctance to be in solidarity with other immigrants now I want to ask a provocative question: is it because we're too white washed?

Transracial non-white adoptees who identify as white, and who benefit from privilege borrowed from their white parents as children have to be politicized as non-whites. I think a majority of TRA never take on a full identity as a non-white person. Those actively involved in the adoptee community are probably even less likely to see themselves as a non-white, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Latin@, Mayan, Colombian, Philipino, Arab, or Roma… person.

Adult adoptees introduce themselves online as having been adopted by "Caucasians". One poster referred to non-white people as "minorities". Non-white people hardly ever use these terms. PC white people – and white-washed non-white people—do. We identify ourselves by the nation or race we feel we belong to. I don't say I'm a minority. I'm Korean or Korean American. My adoptive parents weren't Caucasian. They were white.

Other adoptees claim that they are more enlightened than the people who bore them even if they acknowledge that they're not white because they've suffered from racism in the countries where they live. Their white-washed brains judge their birth countries as inferior in luxuries and comfort, human rights, equality, education, and progress in general. Those who still hold the colonial mindset of Europeans (and their ideological descendants) feel they're helping to civilize more backward nations and communities who don't value their female babies, or who don't accept Jesus, or are from societies that are just too poor, violent, and corrupt for children to live in.

White washing gets non-white people to identify with their white oppressors rather than their non-white sisters and brothers. It makes them subscribe to white supremacy and judge non-western societies as less developed than those based on Judeo-Christian European cultures. Symptoms include arbitrarily rejecting cultural markers of our birth countries, using euphemisms of race and class, and having more friends and associates who are white than from our own nationality. The result is self-hatred, internalized racism, and a weakening of our communities' strength. White-washed people hope that we will be again granted the privilege of white people or at least as a special non-white person. The House Nigger, the Imperial Collaborator, the white-washed adoptee.

Friday, June 11, 2010


You were "chosen". "Your parents really wanted you." You're "special."

America is the best country in world. Everyone wants to come here. This is the freest country in the world. We're number 1!

These are myths that need to be refuted because they're untrue and they do harm.

When you know, without a doubt, you're special or the best, you're disinclined to be empathetic about others' struggles. You understand power imbalance and stratification to be normal and accept it as inevitable.

Non-white international adoptees who are taught and believe that they're special and/or chosen, may fail to acknowledge that their privileges are borrowed are granted but not a birth right. They can be revoked at any time. Sometimes it's hurtful, but trivial, like in Adopted the Movie when Jen, a Korean adoptee, is told she will not be included with her family in the annals of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Jen is blindsided when she's told she's not eligible to be listed with her family. Why should she be so surprised that she cried? Because she deluded herself in believing that she was special. Like so many adoptees she became an overachiever to prove how special she is. She also became an addict.

Learning that American exceptionalism is also a claim that rests on lies is also a painful realization for many people, including American adoptees. We're told that people come here for freedom then we not only find out the slave trade brought people to the United States in chains. We learn in middle school about the poor huddled masses that immigrated between 1880 and 1930 and are told that everyone wants to come to the U.S. We're not taught that more people left than entered the U.S. in the 1930s, nor the fact, throughout the history of the country, half of all immigrants returned to their countries of origin. As adults we read reports in the media that the U.S. does not have the best students, the richest citizens, nor the healthiest population anymore.

This hurts us because the immigrants we need to just stay in the top tier of nations are being attracted to other countries with better health care, education, welfare, and standards of living. Our belief in American exceptionalism is also has more insidious results. The military industrial complex of the U.S. has committed genocide and continues to perpetuate violence domestically and abroad, yet the average American believes our magnanimity to the point of denial about human rights violations and feel morally superior to China, North Korea, and all other nations. We don't condemn our governments' policies nor hold private enterprises responsible for crimes because we can't fathom that we're really as capable as everyone else of callousness, violence, greed, and deceit.

When we realize that we're just average yellow, brown, or black people and not so special, it causes us emotional pain. When we face what our government is guilty of ignoring and perpetuating, it causes uncomfortable redefining of ourselves.



(This post was prompted by this article about Jewish exceptionalism.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Civil Disobedience June 1, 2010 12 noon Federal Plaza NYC

"Being conscientiously of opinion that our current immigration laws betray our core principles of democracy, inclusiveness and justice; that they allow for Arizona's immoral and unconstitutional SB1070; and that their continued enforcement through detention and deportation separates families and destroys communities; we are compelled to escalate our call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the face of inaction from our nation's elected representatives. 

"Today we stand in solidarity with the millions who contribute to our communities and economy while being denied full access to them.  Our act of civil disobedience is performed with the belief that our laws can—and should—be better, and that our nation's leaders cannot stand on the sidelines as our society's core values are betrayed by a broken and immoral immigration system. 

"We invite the enforcement of the law upon ourselves in the hope that our arrest today will be the catalyst for principled leadership from the President and Congress and for meaningful Comprehensive Immigration Reform that will put an end to the arrests and other mistreatments faced by our friends, families, congregations, and communities."


Friday, May 21, 2010

ESOL classes for Jamaican students

 A conversation on a TESOL listserv has caught my attention. A poster asked if students from Jamaica should be put in a English for Speakers of Other Languages class. Several replies posted told her to do so based on the fact that Jamaicans don't speak "standard English". I know of older children who have been put into ESOL classes even though they only speak English. I consider myself a native English speaker, even though it wasn't my first language, it's my primary language and now my only language. Perception can play too big a part in how "fluent" people are judged to be. Below is my response to the thread.


This conversation bothers me because I have heard of other non-American, but native English speaking people being placed in ESOL classes. I'm not calling anyone here racist or prejudiced, but there have been instances I know of where those really were motivating factors in putting non-white, native English speakers into inappropriate classes. As a community, I think we should be sensitized to this situation and guard against judging Englishes from non-First World countries as being inferior or non-standard.

I know of Africans, Asians, and Caribbean people who were all put in ESOL classes although they were taught in English through their entire academic life, and are completely fluent and functional. They're accents were judged by middle-class white Americans as "too foreign" but *I* could easily understand them. I've even heard of British-born people required to take the TOEFL. They were of Asian descent and regardless of their transcript and passport, were required to prove their English proficiency! Their Asian names and student visas trumped the obvious fact that they were native English speakers. Another example that illustrates that people are judged as fluent or not depending on their race is students who are white but speak French or Italian are often judged to be more fluent than they are because there's less stigma associated with their accents (they're even considered "romantic") even if they're test scores are equal to a Dominican student.

Also, judging some world Englishes to be "non-standard" makes me cringe because there IS no defined standard English. Secondly, many people who come from countries or societies where English is an official language along a creole or indigenous language can code switch quite easily. This includes children. Finally, a lot of children from the U.S, Canada, UK, Australia, or NZ do not have the academic writing (perhaps spoken) language skills necessary. (See this article.

As ESOL students still are in some schools considered "remedial" and often tracked into lower classes (which reflects more prejudices) I think it's even more important that students are correctly placed. (Even better if the attitudes toward non-ESOL students changes, but that's another topic.) For Jamaican (I'm assuming Black) students, this is an especially important issue. As a non-white student who was racially tracked, I know that the long-term effects are real.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



Non-white/Person of Color

Adopted Korean/KAD



Adoptive parents/Forever Family


Indian/Native American

Concentration Camp/Internment Camp



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Adoption Immigration Studied and Then….?

At the end of April I went the Adoption: Secret Histories, Public Policies Conference. It was presented by the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture at MIT. I particularly was interested in the session titled, "Transnational Adoption as Immigration Policy: Exceptions, Parallels, and Dilemmas". There were three presenters.  
  • "Adoption and (as) Immigration: Exceptions, Parallels, and Dilemmas" was presented by Sara Dorow from the University of Alberta 
  • "'They're Cute When They're Young': Adoption and the 'Racelessness' of Babies" was the talk given by Karen Dubinsky of Queen's University
  • U.S. Immigration Policy and the Embrace of Transnational Adoption in the 1950s and 1960s" was Karen Balcom's topic. She's from McMaster University

Darrow's presentation seemed mostly about ethnic and national identity, both as perceived by adoptees themselves and their adoptive parents. I had a problem with the fact that she interviewed children and their adoptive parents but no adults who had been internationally adopted. However, I did find phrase that she used interesting: culturally naturalized. 

Balcom's presentation illustrated that children as orphans and refugees have historically been used politically. She also juxtaposed adoption history and general immigration laws of the U.S. which showed that adoption often leads immigration policy change and people trying change permanent immigration policy are often stymied by adoption advocates.

Dubinsky noted that the immigrants adopted by Americans are desirable as babies but are not desired as adult immigrants. This is because babies and children up to pre-teen years are "raceless". Liberals wanted to experiment with interracial families (despite racelessness!). Anti-communists wanted to seem charitable to the world during the Cold War.

I wish the session allowed more discussion about adoption and immigration with points made with by the panelists based on their research. 

I would have asked Dr. Darrow to guess what adult adoptees would have said about being "born again" Canadians (or Americans). Does that mean their lives before their "rebirth" was unmeaningful? I would have asked the other adoptees in the room if they were perceived by white people as "culturally naturalized" as adults. Or, if they've been asked where they're from, where they learned such good English/French/Norwegian/etc. after they're no longer easily identifiable as adoptees like they were when they were at their adoptive parents' sides. 

Dr. Dubinsky's provocative title compares raceless babies to racialized adult immigrants but seems to present them as separate people. Doesn't it make sense to also study those of us who might have started as raceless babies but grow up to be politicized, racialized adults? What does that mean to us personally? Will that have an effect on future adoption policies and practices? Maybe her, upcoming book, Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas, will ask and answer these questions. 

The presentation from Balcom seems to have the most implications for the most people. If international adoption laws leads change and justifies the draconian laws that allow first world adopters to get the children they desire at the expense of other immigrants, clear lines need to be drawn so that adoption supporters know all the repercussions of their advocacy. I think the timeline of general immigration history makes it obvious how racist our past is. I would hope that anyone who adopts transracially would act to make amends for this history and advocate for a more just future. 

I also would have asked what conclusions and recommendations could be supported by their studies. I want to know if my opinions and calls for action are supported by these professors' studies. And for the record, I'd also like to know if these academics are adoptive parents or adoptees and what their personal stake is in this research. 

Side note:
The conference concluded on May 2. That meant that I missed the May Day CIR rallies in New York. I saw no shows of support for comprehensive immigration reform at the conference. What a shame.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Classism in the Adoption Community

I think one reason that the adoption community does not readily take up the immigration cause is classism. While the community now acknowledges “racial difference” (although not always actual racism), classism remains a taboo topic for adoptees and adoptive parents. It’s discussed when we talk about birth parents and exploitation of poor and disempowered women, but the privilege of wealth is denied by adoptees and even more vehemently by adoptive parents. 

Adoptee organizers and the most outspoken representatives of adoptees overwhelmingly come from the middle and upper-classes. I’ve seen this reflected in numerous ways which effectively shuts out lower- and working-class adoptees. For example, in adult adoptee-run organizations I have heard board members say that only social workers (who seem to be overrepresented in the adoptee community) should run the programs, especially the mentorship programs. Adoptee trips tend toward expensive ski trips and golf outings. “Gatherings” of adoptees often involve costly travel and lodging, taking time off from work, and socializing well beyond the means of wage-earners. Less privileged adoptees end up not participating and not being heard, and so they become invisible.

Adoptive parents often claim that they are not rich. They even fundraise online to pay for their adoptions! Adoptive parents with all the trappings of privilege will argue that they are middle class. Their accoutrements included nannies and housekeeping staff, international vacations, advanced degrees, and 2 (or more) cars in the garage of the big house or condo that they own. Like most Americans, adoptive parents in the USA claim to be middle-class, even if by most measures they are wealthy. They fundraise so that they won’t go into debt paying for the adoption instead of giving up any of the luxuries they’ve become accustomed to. (Yes, these are sweeping generalizations I’m indulging in.)

Immigrants, of course, range from conspicuously wealthy to pathetically poor, but the poor are the people that are in the mind’s eye when we talk about immigrant rights and reform. The wretched masses picking our tomatoes, mowing our lawns, delivering our take-out pad Thai, yelling orders for pork fried rice, running the liquor stores, and cleaning the behinds of our babies and invalids are the people who need reform most desperately. Clearly members of the adoption community in America are not THESE kinds of immigrants! We’re not poor! We speak English! We value education! We have respect for The Law! We work hard! 

When we talk of exploited birth mothers and powerless women in grinding poverty in foreign countries, we make them into nobly suffering victims. It’s the white man’s burden to educate and rescue them, or at the very least their children, from manual jobs and menial labor. Never mind that manual work and menial labor are honorable jobs. Working in restaurants, factories, on farms, or at market places is not demeaning. Only those who judge those occupations as inferior would abhor these kinds of work and look down on the people doing it. Even in the worst cases of exploitation, it’s the exploitation, not the workers, who should be considered inferior.

Failing to identify with the poor in this country or in sending countries is one of the reasons that the adoption community does not take interest in immigration issues. But, before we can do that, we have to first acknowledge the classism in our own community.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Response to the REPAIR Proposal by Chuck Schumer

I feel strongly that this legislation is a bad proposal. I also realize that it's trying to play to the various political stances so that it has a chance of passing by appearing tough on "illegal immigration". I don't think the proponents of comprehensive immigration reform should support this bill based on social justice criteria. It is too narrowly focused and short-sighted. Schumer really isn't in favor of humane reform.

1. Border security
Personally, I think that allocating funds for increased border control that restrict the movement of labor is misguided. NAFTA is a free trade agreement and we should have a matching free labor agreement and instead funnel our limited resources to combating drug smuggling, human trafficking, and arms dealing which would also mean dealing with the demand for these things that Americans create. Militarizing the border sends a message of aggression to the rest of the world, threatens the physical safety of American citizens who may be mistaken for unauthorized border crossers, may have a detrimental effect on wildlife in border regions, and may injure otherwise law-abiding people who would be unable to access or navigate bureaucratic procedures for entry of the U.S.

  Internal security
Anyhow, I think that the requirement of fingerprinting of foreign nationals does little increase the security of the U.S., especially given that some of the most egregious terrorist acts perpetuated within US borders has been committed by US citizens. Therefore, all American citizens, resident aliens, and visitors must be fingerprinted and checked by authorities for criminal ties and records. Of course this would be impossible to pass politically, so instead we should think of a less invasive, more effective way to protect the funding law enforcement and first responders' such as police, firefighters, and EMTs rather than immigration enforcement.

2. Deportation & Detention
Any legislation that does not also guarantee the right of detained people to legal representation within reasonable proximity to their normal residence should be considered a bad proposal. Whether people are here with visas and green cards or completely without status, the current practices of moving detainees to places far from family, legal representatives, and other supportive community while in the custody of what amounts to the prison system is unjust and inhumane. The law should also grant the same right to speedy resolution for immigrants that it does for accused criminals.

3. Employment
Since most immigration is fueled by the economic needs of people, encouraging economic growth in socially responsible ways would be a more effective way to end competition for highly skilled and unskilled jobs by American labor and foreign workers. The U.S. should partner with local businesses abroad to create jobs that would improve the quality of life globally and in the US businesses and government should fund more education to produce quality high-tech workers in the US., including doctors and nurses. The employment and labor situation does not exist in an immigration vacuum and the push and pull factors cannot be mitigated by immigration enforcement.

4. Family reunification
The other major reason for migration according to the Migration Policy Institute is family reunification. Current definitions of immediate family reflect a nuclear family bias which does not even acknowledge step-children, let alone same-sex partners, extended family, and biological family of adoptees. For this reason, I think family reunification visas should be scrapped in favor of a system which would allow American citizens and permanent residents to petition for anyone for a certain amount of individuals, rather than an arbitrary list of people who the US government designates as "family".

5. Current unauthorized immigrants already in the U.S.
This legislation does not really spell out what the process or fines would be. I don't think I can form an opinion without know that. There should be provisions for low-income immigrants in regard to any proposed fines and fees. The language of this law also implies that immigrants without authorization do not currently pay taxes. This language should be revised to reflect the reality that immigrants do already pay taxes and should be credited for it. It should also reflect provisions that would fund English classes since people who wish to stay in the country have English language skills. What does that mean, exactly? What are "basic citizenship skills"? I think that the definition of these "skills" has to be more clearly defined.

6. Commission on Wartime Treatment of European Americans, Irish, and Australians
This clear favoritism and bias for presumably Caucasian, English speaking people is unjust and reminds of the worst laws of the past which blatantly discriminated against Asians and other non-white/non-European immigrants in the past. Although it will be effectively inconsequential, including this language and continued favoritism because of political pandering, is an insult to the majority of people who seek to immigrate to the US since we mostly come from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What’s the purpose of national borders, citizenship, and immigration laws?

Devil's Advocate: What's new?

Involuntary Immigrant Adoptee: Well there's been a lot of discussion about the new law that allows dual citizenship for adoptees from South Korea [ROK] and the Arizona law that was just signed which will obligate everyone, especially Latin@s and Asians, to carry identity papers with them that proves that they are authorized to be in the country.

DA: Why is the new ROK law so important? Korean nationals have been naturalized in the U.S. for decades while keeping their South Korean citizenship.

IIA: Those who do that are women or men who already completed their military obligation. Men who had dual citizenship before they did their time in the military had to renounce their ROK citizenship if they were going to enter the country because if they were found to essentially be draft dodgers, they would be compelled to serve and/or penalized for not serving.

DA: So, the obligations of citizenship in the ROK were heavy.

IIA: Yes, ironically, though, orphans were historically barred from serving. This is essentially made them non-citizens because socially and legally men who didn't do their military service were blacklisted occupationally and socially.

DA: Then it's understandable that Koreans would seek American citizenship since the obligations of U.S citizenship are quite few: compulsory registration for the draft for men and jury duty. And it's relatively easy to become an American citizen, isn't it?

IIA: Citizenship is conferred on people in 3 ways. In the U.S. and most of the "New World" (North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand) citizenship does not equate with nationality. If you are born in the countries where jus soli is recognized, you're a citizen. If you're talking about "Old World" nation states, then there's probably a blood requirement, as well. Korea, Japan, and most European countries require that an individual's nation is also congruent with their citizenship. This has caused a lot of debate and problems in countries where large numbers of former colonials immigrated to a country or where there's been a historical community but no citizenship conferred on "foreigners'" for generations. The U.S. uses both jus soli and jus sanguinis, which recognizes children of citizens to be natural born citizens as well. The third way to become a citizen is to be naturalized. The new dual-citizenship law of ROK acknowledges our right to citizenship based on both jus soli and jus sanguinis. It sees that our naturalizations may have been involuntary. We didn't renounce our ROK citizenship intentionally.

DA: So intentionality is important? What about people who are in the United States without authorization? They intentionally disregarded our laws! Why should we confer citizenship on people who have no respect for our laws?

IIA: The difference is intentionally renouncing your citizenship and acquiring one based on the chance of where you were born is big. Which citizenship you happen to be eligible for seems quite arbitrary to me. Borders have changed and people switched from being Mexican citizens to American citizens while remaining in their historical homelands. "They didn't cross the border; the border crossed them." People who have the resources come to the United States to give their children American citizenship at birth but those children often grow up outside the U.S. in their parents' countries and have no real sense of being American. Some adoptees are now granted citizenship based on jus saguinis (that's another topic!) and considered native born but it was chance that had made them Americans. They were simply the ones next up in line for adoption. (Sorry, it wasn't fate.)

As for respect for our laws: Laws that are inhumane and unjust should be disregarded. Laws that allowed slavery, made miscegenation illegal, segregated schools, and excluded the Chinese were all disregarded because it was wrong.

DA: Who decides what's right and what's wrong?

IIA: People of conscious. People reacting to xenophobia, racism, nationalism, and protectionism are clearly not people of conscious.

DA: How do you know who are "people of conscious"?

IIA: Here's a quick test to see where you really are: It's 1882. Do you want to exclude the Chinese? It's 1921. Do you support the law that will bar Southern and Eastern Europeans from entering the country? It's 1965. Do you want to impose quotas on the Western Hemisphere for the first time? If you answered yes to any of these questions you're not answering because you think that "those people just broke the law". You're supporting the law's enactment. You're rationale is flawed.

DA: So the laws that closed the border are wrong in your opinion?

IIA: People who have changed location now are being persecuted because they've been displaced by countries that have free trade agreements (NAFTA but no freedom of movement of the labor force. Why doesn't NAFTA have a freedom of movement for the people in the bloc like the EU does? What reasons are there to enforce a border? Is that separate from the issue of citizenship? Especially when there are so few obligations of citizenship for U.S. citizens?

On the other hand, think about what we give up if we stop the enforcing the borders. The money we'd save significant amounts of money by stopping ineffective patrolling. We would funnel money away from snakeheads and coyotes who may abuse or abandon their charges. We could refocus that money on stopping drug traffickers and arms dealers. The incentive for violence along the border would be lessened. What about terrorism? Well, terrorists have been home-grown or entered the country with visas. Border patrol has never stopped a terrorist before or after a terrorist plot was discovered. And a legalized work force would enable people to demand their rights as workers without fear of deportation. Ready-made, natural labor allies! 

DA: OK, you criticized international adoption and defended illegal immigration. Do you want to talk about gay marriage, abortion, global warming, universal health care, or evolution?

IIA: Uhhhhh......

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Russian adoptee's de facto deportation

aAll over the adoption  world there's chatter about the Tennessee woman who returned her son to Russia, unaccompanied, because she "didn't want to parent him". It seems she also was trying to adopt another child from Georgia. She said he was violent and dangerous and the Russian adoption people had hidden his troubles from her. Unlike a lot of people commenting on this case, I don't find it unbelievable. It's just like the family who sent their Korean daughter back to Hong Kong. Unfortunately this isn't that unique. It's also entirely conceivable that the Russians DID hide the truth from Torry Hansen. The adoption industry often lies and hides information about adoptees and their histories. Sealing the deal is the objective. Getting paid is paramount, both overseas and in the adoptors' countries. Keeping product moving is the goal. To illustrate: One adopter commented on Harlow's Monkey's post about the story that their adoption agency has a call to action to keep the Russian Adoption program open.

Bring people here to fulfill our needs, desires, and whims. Get rid of them if they show any problems or if they no long suit us. People are expendable. Especially foreign people. Cast them out and they won't be our problem anymore. Have they lost all their connections in their countries of origin? Doesn't matter. Just go away! Did they serve a purpose to us? Yeah, but we don't owe them anything! We tried our best but look how disruptive they are! They have problems! Aaaiiiieeeee!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stateless Adoptees

This article about an Mexican adoptee who may be deported has some inaccuracies in it,* but I'd like to comment on the citizenship status of international adoptees and pose some questions.

I think that an issue that wasn't explored is also important. Adoptees sent to foreign countries with travel visas that state that the purpose for their trip was adoption may have lost their citizenship of their birth countries. If they're not naturalized in their adoptive countries, and not considered natural-born citizens, they may be stateless, violating one of the rights identified by the U.N. in Principle 3 of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child [which] asserts that "The child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality." (Wikipedia article: Statelessness)

Male children adopted from South Korea, for example, were routinely stricken from national registries of citizens which meant that they were not obligated to serve the compulsory military service that all Korean men must do. Are those men who are not naturalized citizens stateless now? In the article, Ms. Cohen was allegedly born to parents who neglected her. It's possible that she wasn't registered in Mexico given her young age at the time of her adoption. Is she really a citizen of Mexico? ROK and Mexico has a well-developed civic culture compared to other "source" countries of adoptable children. Children coming from countries where the adoption industry has matured faster than the general civic culture may face greater problems trying to establish their citizenship.

Adopters often advocate for special treatment of their adopted children. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is one example. It was argued that their parents are U.S. citizens, so their children should also be indistinguishable from other children born outside the U.S. to American citizens, like those who are in the military or serving in the Foreign Service. I don't know why the final bill excluded children who entered the country under the IR-4 and those of us adopted well before the CCA was law.

Ironically, I have heard cases in which deportations were avoided because the birth country refused to acknowledge the citizenship of an adoptee and the U.S. had already declared the adoptee deportable. While this keeps him or her in detention, it does keep the adoptee on U.S. soil. This may be preferable to being sent to a place that has been made unfamiliar and strange because of international adoption. The article says that Cohen doesn't speak Spanish. She risks being sent to a country where she has no family or friends. For some people, deportation is the worst case scenario. Worse than being imprisoned without a lawyer or a trial as ICE detainees are.

*A green card is not a visa. It's a Permanent Resident (Alien Registration) identification card. Marrying a citizen does not convey citizenship for foreign-born nationals within three years; it's only after three years can people who are married to citizens begin to petition for citizenship. Children adopted after 2000 only become U.S. citizens if they enter the country under certain visas, which many are ineligible for, so they still must be naturalized.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Adoptees and immigrants are always supposed to be grateful. We’re never supposed to criticize the United States nor the people who adopted us. After all, we’re lucky enough to have been given a chance to live the American Dream. We were saved from horrible Third World Countries where we would have been working in factories making cheap goods for Wal-Mart. Or worse. We hear, “Women are treated horribly in the countries where we were born. “America” is better, the best country, ever! Shut up and don’t make waves. In your country you don’t have the freedom to say anything against the government so how dare you complain?!”

But the adoption industry created the market for children and babies. The United States funded wars that orphaned us and impoverished our countries and our families. We're supposed to be grateful that the United States (one of the many American countries) colonized our countries, by sending missionaries, military, and merchants. Some families driven to desperation migrated from their ancestral homes, their families, their professions, and their lives. Others gave up their children.

For this we're supposed to be grateful.

"Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful" - The Reverend Keith C. Griffith

From Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus

Thanks to Nate James Bae Kupel at Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus.

Joon Hyun Kim’s case once again illustrates the fateful convergence of decisions made and not made by adoptive parents and adoptees, who are eventually left to confront the issues of ethnicity and nationality by themselves and without much guidance.

Dorothy Romriell was finally being sworn in on Monday, ending an ambiguous chapter in her life that began five years ago when she applied for a U.S. passport, only to learn that she never became a citizen back in 1956 when she was adopted by the family of a U.S. Air Force member stationed in South Korea.

There is a fairly large constituency of Asian adoptees in Massachusetts who are not citizens

Dan Heiskala...was adopted at the age of 5, yet was never naturalized as a citizen by his a-parents (Adoptive Parents). His legal battle over his illegal status began in 1992 when he was convicted of stealing a truck which he alleges was false. Per counseled instruction, he did not testify on his behalf and was found guilty by trial resulting in a 7-10 year sentence.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Texas adoptee deported

Here's an article about a Mexican adoptee who was deported. The adoptee's sister says:

"He is not an undocumented immigrant," McMillan said. "He did not falsify any documents. He didn’t sneak over here. He is an American."

Too often we immigrants are divided into categories judged as "good" or "bad" like McMillan implies.

Good ones have a paper that says we paid money to enter the country. Receipts for the fees we paid for visas and doctor's exams. Bank statements that say we have enough money. A diploma that says we're trained professionals and educated. A visa or green card that shows an expiration date, which keeps the government informed of our movements. They're here looking for Freedom, Opportunity, and the American Dream.

Bad immigrants pay money to snakeheads, coyotes, or government officials and leave no paper trails. They often have had their education interrupted by the need to work, violence, or come from a culture that still values practical knowledge and physical labor over formal education.They live semi-clandestine lives that doesn't attract the attention of ICE. They're here to take American jobs, commit crimes, and change the American Way of Life. They broke the law by not going through the correct channels.

This division of immigrants into good and bad seems to be more rational than people who are just anti-immigrant because they're not xenophobic bigots, they're just people who expect everyone to follow the rules. But, laws are not always just. Some laws are justifiably broken when they are inhumane and unfair. Slavery was legal, and some people broke the law by stealing human chattel and brought them to freedom. Segregation was legal and some people broke the law by sitting in the front of the bus and at lunch counters for Whites Only. If you put immigrants into good and bad categories, how do you classify the Underground Railroad conductors and intrepid Civil Rights pioneers? 

What about immigrants with all the receipts and papers who get in trouble with the law? What about those without documentation who work hard, raise their children and send them to college, and are valuable members of their communities? What about those of us whose legal documents were completed by criminals on our behalf? Where should we be categorized?