Over 70 Community Members Join Adoptee Citizenship Act Day of Action in DC and Across the Country

April 19, 2016
Contact: Emily Kessel, NAKASEC, eakessel@nakasec.org

Over 70 Community Members Join Adoptee Citizenship Act Day of Action in DC and Across the Country

#CitizenshipforAllAdoptees

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WASHINGTON DC — Today, on the first Adoptee Citizenship Act Day of Action, over 70 community members from across the country including California, Illinois, and Virginia gathered in Washington D.C. for a full-day of legislative visits to meet with 36 congressional offices and deliver information to all senators and 155 members of the Youth Foster Caucus asking them to support the passage of the Adoptee Citizenship Act (ACA) of 2015 in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The Day of Action also included a press conference uplifting stories of adoptees who do not have citizenship and advocates involved in the movement to close the loophole in the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) that left thousands of adoptees without citizenship. Community supporters who could not travel to D.C. joined the day of action by contacting their senators and representatives by phone and over social media to echo the same message of those visiting the Hill.

The Day of Action is being co-sponsored by National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), 18 Million Rising, Gazillion Strong, the Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC), and Korean American Coalition (KAC).

The ACA of 2015 is a bipartisan stand-alone bill serves two purposes: 1) close the loophole left by the CCA so that all intercountry adoptees — including those born before 1983 — have automatic citizenship and 2) gives adoptees who have been falsely deported the opportunity to come back to the US if they wish.  This bill was introduced by co-sponsors Senators Klobuchar (MN-D), Jeff Merkley (OR-D), and Dan Coats (IN-R), and is currently in the Judiciary Senate Committee. Senators Kirsten Gilbrand (D-NY) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are also co-signers.

Mae, an adoptee speaking at the day of action, said: “I deserve to be a U.S. citizen because both of my adoptive parents are U.S. citizens and it does not make sense why the U.S. won’t grant me my rights. I want to work. I want to be a positive contributing member of a society that does not see me as one of them. S.2275 is the number I’ve had stuck in my head for the past few weeks. It has become more important than my phone number, my birthday and the thread count of my blankets as we near a cold winter. Hoping, praying, and even wishing that I don’t have to go through the 3+year green card and eventual citizenship wait that I should not have to go through. I am hoping and praying and even wishing that I don’t have to spend 3,000 dollars upward in forms, and lawyer fees to bring me that much closer to where I should already belong.”

Amie Kim, an adoptee speaking at the day of action, shared: “I was 22 years old when I learned from INS that I was not a U.S. citizen. I had spent my life in Minnesota assuming I was. In my 30s, there was a period of about two years when I could not get an above the board job because my green card had expired and I couldn’t afford the exorbitant renewal fees. I also feel wronged when I have to prove my right to be in this country every ten years when I renew my green card. I have struggled with homelessness, unstable employment, and lack of health care for my chronic illness for most of my adult life. I am law abiding, but there is a subtle fear that a minor collision with the law could get me deported back to a country where I have no support system and can’t communicate.  Adoption to me meant loss of family, language, and culture, but in exchange, I was promised a stable family life, better opportunities, and a welcoming country.  So far, none of these have come true for me, but the passage of Adoptee Citizenship Act could right one of the wrongs. If it goes into effect within the next couple years, unencumbered naturalization would relieve a lot of emotional and financial stress for me. ”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota co-sponsor of the ACA, released a statement in solidarity with the ACA Day of Action: link to letter

Senator Daniel Coats, Indiana co-sponsor of the ACA, also released the following: “Under current law, a small population of adoptees, through no fault of their own, face deportation because they are not considered to be American citizens.  This is despite the fact that they were brought to the United States as children by their American adoptive parents and even grew up here.  By closing this unintentional loophole, this legislation would extend citizenship to these specific adoptees and protect future adoptee children from similar circumstances.  I am pleased to support a common-sense, narrowly tailored fix to this longstanding issue.”

Dae Joong Yoon, Executive Director of NAKASEC, said: “Community members from Illinois, California, Virginia, and other parts of the country traveled to DC to express their support for the Adoptee Citizenship Act with politicians who have the power to move a bill forward that will close the loophole left by Child Citizenship Act. This day of action is one day of escalation to show the broad support for getting this bill passed, but the the adoptee-led efforts will continue until the work is done. This is a human rights issue. Thousands of adoptees are facing great challenges in the U.S. and risking deportation to a country of birth where they have no known family, cannot speak the language, and do not know the culture. Now is the time to make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of adoptees who are without U.S. citizenship through no fault of their own.”

Kelsey Yoon, Attorney working on the Adoptee Citizenship Act, said: “Promoting adoption has been and continues to be primarily a bipartisan and popular platform for members of congress to highlight.  Just a couple of months ago, introduced by a leading Republican and with unanimous consent, the senate passed a resolution that seeks to promote and celebrate adoption.  The purpose of the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015 seeks to affirm the promises that were made and continue to be made by congress: adoption is the creation of a new legal family.  It continues to befuddle me how members of congress continue to promote adoption when the U.S. is unable to ensure the basic right of U.S.-citizenship to those adoptees that have been legally adopted into this country already.  It is shameful that those politicians who tout themselves as leaders in adoption advocacy on the hill are unwilling to lead the efforts in supporting the adoptees that they so eagerly sought to bring into this country for the purposes of adoption decades ago.”

Jenny Kim, Vice Chair of Korean American Coalition (KAC) shared the following statement, “KAC, as one of the leading Korean-American civic engagement and advocacy organizations, believes our most important job is to speak and advocate on behalf of those who do not have a voice.  We urge the lawmakers to give all legal international adoptees their due US citizenship that they were promised by the government when they were adopted into this country by US citizen parents.  ACA is an amendment of an existing federal law, Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000.  CCA should not have had limited its scope to adoptees under the age of 18 when the law was enacted in 2000.  We are asking to address the oversight and allow CCA to be applied to ALL legal adoptees.

For more information or to get involved with the movement to win citizenship for all intercountry adoptees, please contact adopteedefense@gmail.com and follow us at #citizenshipforalladoptees