Citizenship for Adopted Kids Who Were Left Out

CAFO’s primary focus isn’t government, but we see every day that government policies can have a profound impact – for good or for ill – on the lives of children.

That’s certainly the case with a loophole that has existed for many years in U.S. international adoption law. As a result, some individuals adopted decades ago by U.S. citizen parents have never received U.S. citizenship.

Many of these individuals discovered that their citizenship had never been fully secured only later in life – when they sought to join the armed services or apply for a passport.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 fixed this problem for many adopted children. But it did not cover those who’d reached 18 before the bill was enacted. As a result, a significant group of adopted individuals simply were never fully recognized as U.S. citizens. Most of these individuals have no citizenship rights in their country of birth, either. So, at least on paper, they appear to be people without a country.

This error remains a tragedy on so many levels.

For the adopted individuals impacted, it has created innumerable challenges, both small and immense. Lack of citizenship can make it tremendously hard for them to apply for college and financial aid, create bank accounts, rent homes, and start careers. Without citizenship, they were ineligible for COVID aid and other vital programs.

On an international level, the fact that this group of adoptees never received citizenship may cause foreign governments to discount America’s strong commitment to the ideal of adoption. That could make it even harder for children growing up without families today to find homes through international adoption.

Most profoundly, it contradicts the deep conviction shared by virtually all Americans that adoption is an act as real and permanent as a biological birth. If a child is born to an American citizen, they are immediately and automatically a citizen. The same should be true for the child received through adoption as well.

Virtually all Americans share the conviction that adoption is an act as real and permanent as a biological birth.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 (S. 1554/H.R. 2731) would close this gap. It amends the 2000 act to provide immediate citizenship to individuals adopted by U.S. citizens who weren’t covered by the previous bill. Ultimately, it will ensure automatic citizenship for every child fully and finally adopted by a U.S. citizen.

The approval of this bill by Congress is anything but certain, especially in an election year. We’d encourage you to learn more about the bill and how you can help HERE.