Please consider signing this petition titled “Equality Under Immigration Law” by clicking on this link. I have sent the petition to Senator Coleman, Senator Dayton, and Congresman Sabo via snail mail, as well as email, and posted their responses below. Ideally this work should be taken up by someone living in the U.S. who can march over to their lawmakers’ office and make them actually read the text. If you’re willing to be that person, please let me know.
I have posted the following poignant letter with the permission of both the writer and the adoptee involved:
I am the wife of an adoptee in Massachusetts. I was so happy to see your petition online. My husband lived with his mother and extended family until he was 10 years old. He is hapa, his father being an American GI who took off when he was two years old. His mother and family held on to him for as long as was humanly possible. Then social workers, discrimination and financial woes finally left his mother with no alternative except to place him for adoption. She always told him to go to college and come back as soon as he could. Family members made him memorize phone numbers and addresses. To make a very long and painful story short, he was adopted by an abusive, single man who collected young Asian adoptees. To make matters worse, he lived in a tiny, all white town in Massachusetts where he faced rampant discrimination and taunting. He ran away when he was sixteen. He has never had a familial relationship with his adoptive father. Confusion, fear of rejection and depression stopped my husband from going back to Korea even after he became an adult. It wasn’t until he turned 30 that he began searching for his birth family. (His only family.) He found an aunt, who contacted his mother who immediately called him. He has been to Korea and his mother, aunt and uncle came to visit him here in the US last year. His mother is aging, and desperately wants to come to the US and live with us. My husband, while overjoyed to have found his family, is heartbroken that now they must remain separated by thousands of miles. To make matters worse, it seems impossible for us to move to Korea, which we had seriously considered, because of the discrimination against hapas there. He would be unable to support himself or his mother. The reason I have explained all this in such detail is because I was so livid when we began the immigration process to bring his mother over and found out that he was not only ripped away from his family, language, heritage and culture; he will always be a “second-class citizen” in this country. After speaking with expert immigration lawyers in Boston, they told us that the only hope we had of sponsoring his mother was to dissolve his adoption (which he has ample grounds for); this would automatically cause his citizenship to be revoked (!!!! after 26 years) and reapply as my spouse. During that time he would be ineligible to work, could lose all SS benefits etc, and could potentially be deported to Korea. Then, if all of that worked, maybe we could sponsor her as long as we were not thought to be “circumventing immigration law’ which is exactly what we would be doing. I was really shocked, and incredibly disappointed in this country. People who gain citizenship through marriage have a time limit of only five years before they are free to divorce, remarry and retain their citizenship. This is such a punitive law, aimed at a group people who have often been exploited plenty already. I wanted to offer my full support to your efforts and let you (and the Congressmen) know that other people are in this situation. If I can do anything to assist in this cause, please let me know. Thank you.
Even though you may not have anyone you want to sponsor now or ever, I think it is still important for adult adoptees and their allies to demand equal rights under the law. Domestic adoptees, for example, have been working in many states to gain open access to their records.
We may not get our civil rights; however, just in the process of trying to obtain them, we can show something about how race and class privilege have affected our adoptions and continue to affect our lives as American citizens, transracial adoptees, and “intercountry” adoptees.We can make a mark on the historical record that says we view ourselves and our natural families as full human beings entitled to the same rights as other people. We are not just “orphans” even if legally classified so, and our mothers are not amputated “tummy mommies.”
How this got started: At the GOA’L conference, I had a conversation with the US Embassy guy in charge of giving all the visas to Korean children who are sent to the US to be adopted. (He happens to be a really nice guy and seemed genuinely concerned.) I asked him if there were any immigration privileges for our natural families. He said no; natural mothers are specifically banned from immigrating to the U.S. I asked about siblings. He said he wasn’t sure, but probably not — do my siblings have any special skills? No, we were dirt poor and that’s why I got adopted. I guess my sister worked in a bowling alley once… He suggested I write my lawmakers. So, I did. Here’s the full text of the petition:
Dear Senator Coleman, Senator Dayton, and Congressman Sabo: We believe that the current federal law pertaining to family-based immigration for the natural families American intercountry adoptees is unjust. We would like the law reformed so that American intercountry adoptees can sponsor their natural relatives through lawful family-based immigration, just as all other U.S. citizens can. Intercountry adoptees of legal age would like to be treated as equal citizens under the law.
Here are some facts about intercountry adoptees:
• Each year thousands of foreign children arrive in the United States as adopted sons and daughters of American citizens. Last year, nearly 23,000 children arrived for the purposes of adoption in the U.S. on “orphan visas.”
• Since 1990, close to a quarter million children have been brought to the U.S. on orphan visas for the purposes of adoption.
• The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-395) grants automatic U.S. citizenship to adopted children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad and who do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth.
• Alien “orphans” benefit from immigration laws that privilege them because of their absorptions into overwhelmingly white, middle-class American adoptive families.
• The United States has not yet ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
• UNICEF reports the annual number of unregistered births in the world (i.e., children with no legal status) at over 48 million.
• Unregistered children are vulnerable to trafficking and falsification of papers. Many adoptees do not legally exist until they have entered into the international adoption system as an “orphan.”
• Many children who have been legally classified as “orphans” still have parents, siblings, and extended relatives living in their countries of birth.
• Despite tremendous geographic, linguistic, cultural, and legal obstacles, many U.S. citizens who were once legally classified as “orphans” are now reuniting in adulthood with their families of origin in foreign countries. Some would like to rebuild their connections with natural families, but are unable to do so because of they are no longer able to live in their countries of origin, and their natural families are unable to immigrate the U.S..
• All U.S. citizens should be afforded the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges of citizenship.
• However, under current U.S. immigration law under the Immigration and Nationality Act 101(b), intercountry adoptees, who are now U.S. citizens, are by law not allowed to sponsor the immigration of their natural family members.
• The race and class privilege of the adoptive parents of intercountry adoptees has been used in order to facilitate the speedy adoptions and citizenships of overwhelmingly non-white children and children born in former Soviet bloc countries.
• Yet intercountry adoptees’ natural families by law cannot enjoy the same benefits of American citizenship as their natural sons and daughters. This can be interpreted as a form of racial and political discrimination against both American adoptees themselves and their natural families.
• It is ironic that although adoptees might be able to petition for foreign spouses and fiancées, who are of no blood relation, adoptees cannot apply for their own natural, immediate families.
• Under Public Law 97-359, a U.S. citizen may petition for the immigration of an Amerasian child or son or daughter of a United States citizen if there is reason to believe that the alien was born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and was fathered by a U.S. citizen (usually assumed to be a GI).
• Likewise, American citizens of the legal age of 21 should also be able to petition for and sponsor the lawful family-based immigration of aliens if there is reason to believe that the beneficiary is a member of their natural family. Foreign-born adoptees of the legal age of 21 should have the same civil rights as any other U.S. citizens.
• U.S. immigration law regarding foreign-born adoptees has been historically changed by powerful adoption agencies and white adoptive parents, such as Mia Farrow and Harry Holt of Holt International adoption agency. However, the needs of adult adopted U.S. citizens themselves have not yet been served.
• Korean adoption began in the mid 1950s. Over 100,000 Korean children have since come to the United States and close to 77,000 are now of legal adult age. Minnesota has the country’s largest concentration of Korean adoptees. Korean adoptees are the oldest, largest, and most organized of the intercountry adoptee groups. Minnesota is renowned for welcoming immigrants, refugees, and intercountry adoptees. We believe that adoptees of legal age should be granted the full rights of citizenship: we would like the option to sponsor the lawful immigration of our natural families. On behalf of all American intercountry adoptees, we ask that federal legislation to reform immigration policy for the families of these citizens begin with our honorable representatives from the great State of Minnesota. Thank you for your consideration. –American intercountry adoptees, supporters, and adoptive families
Update, Nov. 2, 2006
Dear Ms. Trenka :
Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your support of the Helping Families Adopt Orphans Act (H.R. 5888). I strongly support the intent of this legislation and will work towards its passage. I share your concerns with delays in the international adoption process. I, and my staff, have worked hard to facilitate adoptions, and I believe that this legislation would be an effective tool to take orphans from other countries and bring them into a loving family. As you may know, H.R. 5888 was introduced on July 25, 2006 by Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM). This legislation would extend the life of adoption petitions, thus reducing the already high cost of adopting a child from a foreign country. H.R. 5888 currently awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee. You may also be interested to know that I am a cosponsor of the Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act (S. 246). Introduced by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) on February 1, 2005, S. 246 would make permanent the adoption tax credit and expand adoption assistance programs currently in place. Inter-country adoptions are important to me. There is no such thing as an unwanted child, just unfound families. I believe all youth deserve a loving family and a future of hope. It has been my great pleasure to help Minnesota families with their international adoptions. Over the past four years, my office has helped hundreds of families connect with children from all over the world. One of my favorite events is my Home for the Holidays Reunion, a gathering to celebrate adoption. Helping families unite through adoption remains a top priority and I will continue my work through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. Thank you once again for contacting me. If I can be of further assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
Sincerely, Norm Coleman United States Senate
Thank you for your message. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views. I receive several thousand phone calls, faxes, and letters every month. In order to be fair to all constituents — regardless of how they contact my office — all responses to legislative issues are made via U.S. Mail or e-mail in the order in which they are received. If you have contacted me regarding a specific problem with a federal government agency, or if you require assistance with your immigration case, you can also contact my district office in Minneapolis at 612-664-8000. Again, thank you for contacting me.
Sincerely, Martin Olav Sabo Member of Congress
Thank you for taking the time to contact me in Washington. I appreciate your message. However, due to the large volume of e-mails I receive daily and the variety of issues they address, it may take some time to respond to your concerns. I regret any such delay, and I assure you that you will receive a response in the near future. Thank you again for taking the time to be in touch with me. My best regards.
Sincerely, Mark Dayton United States Senator
November 28, 2006
Dear Ms. Jeong Trenka: Thank you for contacting me regarding federal law reform on behalf of American intercountry adoptees. I appreciate having the benefit of knowing your views and thank you for your petition. As your representative in the United States Senate, I am firmly committed to serving the interests of Minnesotans to the best of my ability. Please be assured that your ideas and problems are my top priority in the Senate. The policies and legislation I support will promote the best quality of life in the State of Minnesota. Again, thank you for taking the time to be in touch with me. Please let me know if there is any way my staff and I can be of assistance to you. My best regards.
Sincerely, Mark Dayton United States Senator
November 28, 2006
Dear Honorable Senator Dayton, Thank you very much for your quick response. Do you plan to take any action about our petition?
Thank you, Jane Jeong Trenka
November 28, 2006
This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification. Delivery to the following recipients failed. Senator_Dayton@dayton.senate .gov