Due to the current administration’s call for stricter rules regarding undocumented immigrants, an estimated 30,000 people who were adopted from overseas as infants or toddlers are learning they may not be legal citizens of the United States. When international adoption laws were first established, many parents mistakenly assumed that adoption and immigration were tied together. In actuality, they were two separate processes until 2000.
Today, children who are adopted from overseas by United States citizens typically receive automatic citizenship. Adoption agencies and embassies are much more diligent about informing parents about any follow-up procedures that they need to do. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 awarded citizenship retroactively to more than 100,000 international adoptees under the age of 18 who were already in the country when the Act went into effect during February 2001.
A Critical Mistake
Tens of thousands of grown adoptees from overseas have discovered their true legal status by accident when they filed for government benefits or a passport because they were already 18 years of age at the time. They were adopted internationally by American parents between the 1950s and 1980s but never naturalized.
While a few are legal residents who can openly work to obtain citizenship, many others face deportation to homelands where they cannot speak the language or even read a street sign.
These people are afraid to vote, travel, or do anything that might glean the attention of the authorities. If they commit a crime, they can face deportation right away. This is because Homeland Security regulations prioritize deportation of noncitizens who may be a threat to public safety, even if these people spent their entire lives in the United States.
Who is to Blame?
Blame cannot just fall on one person. Parents who did not know or did not care that they must naturalize their child, lawyers who gave faulty advice, adoption agencies that considered their work complete, and a government that knowingly admitted thousands of children are among the few.
What You Can Do
If you are an adoptee from another country that found out as an adult that you are not an American citizen, you should contact an experienced immigration lawyer immediately. Having a seasoned professional in your corner to steer you through the legal system is your best chance at obtaining legal citizenship and avoiding deportation.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Advocate for Adopted Immigrants
If you have concerns or questions about your citizenship status, contact an experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. With offices located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve clients in Bala Cynwyd, Merion Station, Darby, Wynnewood, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, Narberth, Folcroft, Cheltenham, Clifton Heights, Lansdowne, Glenolden, Drexel Hill, Elkins Park, Havertown, Norwood, Ardmore, Holmes, Essington, Wyncote, Prospect Park, as well as Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County. To schedule a consultation, call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online today.