Is it okay to not get U.S. citizenship for an internationally adopted child?

I came upon your website today and found several thoughtful comments. Perhaps this is the place to pose my question. Is it ever okay to not get U.S. citizenship for an internationally adopted child? I have read the horror stories of deportation and know that no one seems to question the necessity of getting U.S. citizenship. In fact adoptive parents are urged to make sure this is done before the child reaches adulthood. My child was adopted at age ten and doesn’t like a lot of things about American culture. He has stated he does not want to be a citizen of the U.S., yet he does not see himself going back to his country. I hope I am not a terrible parent for questioning this issue.

Dual citizenship is not permitted in his case. I figure I could let him make the decision after he is 18, but there is always a chance something could go wrong and end in deportation between the time he turns 18 and the time he decides for himself. I also considered that he may be able as an adult to reject his U.S. citizenship and apply for citizenship of his own country. Most likely I will get his U.S. citizenship. I always tell him that it is okay to not like aspects of this country and that others would agree with him, even those immigrants who moved here of their own choice.

10 thoughts on “Is it okay to not get U.S. citizenship for an internationally adopted child?

  1. My 2 cents is that U.S. Citizenship is about him being protected not about him honoring or siding with U.S. culture. In the future, he could be faced with being deported to a country that he doesn’t identify with either–or identifies with less than the U.S. with no option of coming back. With U.S. citizenship, he would at least have rights within the country he currently lives.

    I think listening to children is very important….but can he at age 10 competently make decisions for himself that he’ll have to live with at age 18?

  2. Let him make the decision at 18. With Korea, the law changed for me, so now I can get a Dual citizenship. The same may happen for him, but to get a dual citizenship in the first place you need a passport from the country that adopted him.

    So yes, support him at 18 if he decides. But before then help him by getting his citizenship and leaving that door really open for him.

  3. Is it possible to get a green card for him? I don’t know very much about US citizenship, except how to lose it, so I don’t know if that would then make him ineligible for citizenship in his home country. If that wouldn’t cost him his home citizenship, I do know he would be eligible for US citizenship at the age of 18 if he desired it with a green card – thus meaning he could put off the decision until later, unless dual citizenship becomes a possibility before then.

    Unless it’s really necessary, I would try to find some way to make his future in America more secure without costing him his other citizenship. As I am going through the UK citizenship process, I know how difficult it can be to get citizenship.

  4. kimyunmi: It’s not about him making a choice. It’s about him being illegally living in a country he has no citizenship of, or being deported back to a country he has no citizenship in.

  5. I cannot believe you would think, as a mother, not to give your child U.S.Citizenship…I mean why did you adopt him in the first place? No really…why did you adopt? If this child came out of your own womb, would you still hold the feelings that maybe you should or shouldn’t give your child that basic right for being a part of your family tree? Do you really consider him part of your family tree? or only if he acts and behaves how you think he needs to act and behave?
    Just to protect your child you need to get him his U.S. Citizenship…otherwise it will be adoptees like myself who raise money or beg 10,000 people to sign a petition to keep him from being deported because of the lack of what you adoptive mothers and fathers did NOT do.
    All kids go through emotional stages of hate, of finding himself, or tidal waves of anger…and I am sure he has been through enough trauma in his young life to angrily say a lot of hateful things (which is normal and he has that right).
    If you plan to give him back to his country then don’t get him U.S.Citizenship, but if you plan to stick with ‘your’ child then protect him and do what you have to do as a loving parent.

  6. In this day and age, I would have to say that it would be unacceptable to leave this child’s citizenship status in limbo. Plus, as the parent he/she has an obligation to secure this child’s safety and well-being, even over his objections to wanting to become a US citizen.

    Looking long-term, without citizenship, he wouldn’t be permitted to cross the US border, either out or in; he would be deprived the right to vote in any US election (once he turns 18); and, he would have a hell of time applying for a job that pays a livable wage. There are probably even more reasons for him to become a US citizen that should be considered.

    Since this kid is 10 years old, I think he has room to question and explore his identity and debate in his mind whether or not he wants to be a US citizen. But, as a parent, and practically speaking, it’s time to fill out the forms and pay the fees and ensure that the child has a stable future in this country.

  7. I would agree with what has been posted so far, castigating as it were (and given the limited amount of information we have) the negligence on the part of a parent who does not provide for a solid grounding in this child’s new-found place, especially after dispossessing the child from his land of birth. I was naturalized a citizen when I was five years old; what were/are you waiting for? How did this happen? How often does this happen is perhaps the bigger question.

    Having said that, the question opens up a much bigger discussion concerning place/non-place, belonging, and the rights we claim by virtue of being citizens. In an ironic way, I can imagine the “non-place” of this child between his land of birth and the place he was adopted to, because I am more and more familiar with it, as an adoptee returned, with no will to return (like this child) or no ability to truly assimilate (as has been mentioned).

    To gain insight into what the reality is of those who actually live this way, we can look at those who are truly “stateless”–for one example, the Palestinian people, or that of the Bedouin populations, or the case of immigrants to the United States who are now facing deportations that are breaking up their families, because the children were born in the U.S. This idea of jus soli, or right of citizenship based on birth, is a “New World” right, as explained here:

    But the “New World” is getting rather old. Because of the way that U.S. law works, deportation is seen as a punishment, and therefore does not extend to family members, just the individual. It is becoming easier to be caught up in the grinding gears of immigration bureaucracy these days; this can involve overstaying one’s visa, speaking out on campus or online, or simply (these days) having an Arab-, Hispanic-, or Muslim-“sounding” name or surname and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    In terms of adoptees’ rights in their lands of birth, a lot depends on the originating country. Lebanese adoptees like myself have a chance at citizenship here, but this is based on our bogus paperwork and the class status afforded by our bourgeoisification and acculturation in our adoptive country. This is hugely ironic, given the inability of local immigrant populations or refugees to gain citizenship (this is painful when these populations end up one’s friends–how to explain such a disparity?) Similarly, Lebanese adoptees taken during the war without this paper trail have no such right. All laws and all rights lean toward those who “have”, and so to be of this class and not provide such privilege to a child you are caring for is rather disturbing.

    This brings up a point being discussed, which is the idea of “dual citizenship”. To note is that like jus soli, hosting countries take advantage of certain immigrant groups by “claiming them”, especially if they represent an important brain drain on the supply country (India or Germany, for example) or if their supply country allows for the voting of foreign nationals, in which case the hosted population acts as an agent of foreign policy (Lebanon, for example).

    This child in your care should weigh things carefully though as he grows up. United States laws are increasingly aiming to marginalize, deport, and eliminate groups seen as posing any kind of internal “threat” however defined by the United States. This child does not have “free speech” to air his views concerning how he feels about his American acculturation. Were the Patriot Act II to be passed, no one would have even this as birthright.

    Those of us who are naturalized who “run afoul” of increasingly restrictive laws risk losing our bank accounts, our ability to travel to and from the U.S., and/or our citizenship based on this as well as a variety of bills either under consideration or passed into law that forbid advocacy for or contact with so-called terrorist groups, even though locally said groups may indeed be valid political actors, democratically elected, etc. I say this because greater freedom of speech in a foreign country for a U.S. national becomes a trap and a double-edged sword.

    For example, television stations here are politically affiliated; I have to weigh, say, appearing on a particular television station talking about the trafficking of children in Lebanon with the perception of this appearance by the U.S. State Department. Activism on behalf of Palestinians, for example, requires dealing with a full spectrum of political actors in varying degrees; that the U.S. should focus on a few of these and make determinations about one’s status as a citizen thereof is a twisted and egregious misuse of the notions of citizenry of supposedly “free” nations.

    Perhaps it is a good point to explain to this child that to be naturalized as a minor requires a sworn statement of the petitioner of citizenship, not s/he being naturalized, if I’m not mistaken. Once he is 18, then he will be required to make this oath, and this might make a difference in how he views it. Personally, I am glad that my adoptive father made this oath on my behalf, especially now that I’ve lived through wars funded and armed by the U.S., and am currently living through the counter-revolutions sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. It was his will, and not necessarily mine, and this is a consolation of sorts.

    I make these political comments as statements of fact, not to enflame or annoy. Because for any adoptee traveling back or moving back to their originating place, there is a need to acknowledge the politics of the Empire that preceded them. This has made it often difficult at times to connect with people here, and I understand why. It also makes it more and more difficult to connect with those left behind. And this is the psychological counterpart to physical statelessness, and I am not sure which is worse.

    In this regard, my acculturation in the United States and my American passport are albatrosses around my neck, despite my friends telling me they allow me to go “anywhere”. This isn’t necessarily true; to travel locally in this region or the Global South is much easier with a Lebanese passport which I am trying to obtain via a re-established nationality. My students who not so long ago had no problem obtaining a visa for their studies abroad are now being rejected simply for being Lebanese and/or of a particular sect; they are refocusing their future on other places more welcoming to them.

    And thus my re-entry to the United States each time I visit becomes more and more a painful reminder of the rejection afforded to the adults who, as children, are seemingly welcomed in with open arms. I now see these as deceptive arms, and their reach is long, and their judgment is final. Caveat emigrator; especially when s/he is migrating against his or her will.

    The concept of citizenship, its relation to the formation of nation states many of which (like Lebanon) were created wholly out of the foreign policies of the adoptive country and its First World allies, the concept of travel as opposed to displacement and dispossession, and who is effected by these and why, all paint a damning picture of adoption when we analyze them thoroughly.

    The simple answer is that you should have naturalized this child if only to provide a more solid and stable base for him, especially after destabilizing him from his origins in the first place. The deeper answer is much more complicated than this discussion will allow.

  8. Apropros of this discussion:

    Stop the deportation on Russell Green and other adoptee immigrants

    Russell David Green (Lim Sang Keum) was born to a Korean mother and an American soldier and has lived in the United States for over 30 years. He currently faces possible deportation to Korea – a country whose language he cannot speak and where he has no family who recognizes him. continues….

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s