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.


  1. Wow. I'm speechless. I really don't know what to say. I hope everything works out for the best for her.

  2. Unfortunately not too uncommon. I've met a few Korean adoptees who were deported back to Korea during the past 7 years.