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House Approves Citizenship for International Adoptees

A bill (H.R. 2883) that would affect American families adopting foreign-born children was approved, by voice vote, by the House on September 19. The measure was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on July 26 (see The Source, 7/31/00). A companion measure (S. 1486) was approved by the Senate last October.

The bill would confer U.S. citizenship upon all foreign-born children adopted by Americans. Citizenship would be official upon finalization of adoption, providing that the child is under 18 years of age, at least one adoptive parent is an American citizen, and the adoptee resides with that parent in the United States.

Under current law, citizenship is automatically granted if one of the adoptive parents has lived in the United States for at least five years, at least two of those years aged 14 or older. Otherwise, American families adopting foreign-born children must apply for adoptees’ citizenship separately. Anecdotal evidence has demonstrated that some families are unaware of this requirement. Instead, they assume that citizenship is automatic or that the paperwork is filed with the adoption papers.

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), sponsor of the bill, said, “This bill will avoid heartbreaking injustices that have sometimes tragically occurred. Some parents have discovered to their horror that their failure to complete the paperwork in time can result in their forced separation from their children.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said the measure will ensure that a child “adopted by a citizen of the United States will now have the same rights as a child born overseas to a citizen parent.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) added, “This bill will simplify the already complicated and complex process parents undertake when they embark on an international adoption.”

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