To date, at least 35 intercountry adoptees in the US have been deported to their country of birth because their adoptive parents did not complete the required naturalization and citizenship process for their child. In Canada, adoptees face similar circumstances and can be deported if their parents did not obtain citizenship for them. The adoptees who are deported find themselves in a country where they no longer know the language, have no family or community connections, are unable to easily secure employment, and have no cultural familiarity. Some intercountry adoptees were never told their parents had not secured their citizenship. In other cases, adoptive parents mistakenly believed they had completed the required paperwork or thought citizenship was automatic. Some adoptive parents thought the adoptee should make the decision to become a citizen once the child reached adulthood but failed to convey the necessary information or keep the child’s legal permanent status updated. Finally, in some instances, intercountry adoptees were removed from their adoptive homes because of abuse or neglect and their lack of citizenship was unknown to child welfare professionals and/or subsequent guardians.
A child adopted via intercountry adoption is promised permanency. Failure in obtaining citizenship fails the adoptee who had no ability to obtain citizenship on their own. NACAC believes intercountry adoptees should not be subject to detention and/or deportation because their adoptive parents overlooked, neglected, or failed to take action to obtain citizenship for their child.
Policy and Practice Recommendations
NACAC supports legislative efforts that focus on correcting the loophole in the US Child Citizenship Act of 2000 that excluded the automatic citizenship of intercountry adoptees born prior to February 27, 1983. In Canada, NACAC proposes that legislation be passed that grants adoptees automatic citizenship. Countries that lack automatic citizenship for intercountry adoptees and those with date and age of adoption exclusions for automatic citizenship for intercountry adoptees should pass amendments authorizing automatic and/or retroactive citizenship for all intercountry adoptees.
Intercountry adoptees in the US and Canada who have committed crimes should not be deported based on their criminal activity, even if they do not have US or Canadians citizenship. Rather, they should serve their time as appropriately determined by a court of law and remain in their adoptive country.
Both the US and Canada should halt the detention and deportation of intercountry adoptees. Central Authorities and state/provincial agencies, along with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children in Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, should provide technical assistance to country legislative bodies in protecting intercountry adoptees from deportation and with assistance in obtaining expedited legal citizenship.
Adoption agencies involved in facilitating intercountry adoption should create and staff pre- and post-adoption services to help families to address issues of citizenship. We recommend adoption agencies implement stronger proactive training on obtaining certificates of citizenship/documentation for new adoptive families, provide staff and/or parent mentors to assist with the tasks for obtaining the certificate of citizenship for their children, keep cases active until the citizenship documents have been confirmed, assist past adoptive parent clients in the US seeking citizenship resources for children not covered by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, refer adult adoptees who believe they may lack citizenship with legal resources to help with the citizenship process, and advocate and support legislation to correct the exclusion of intercountry adoptees based on their age and date of adoption.