2017-10-11 16:57
14,189 Korean-born adoptees in US undocumented
By Kim Hyo-jin

One out of 10 Korean-born adoptees in the United States does not have U.S. citizenship, according to a ruling party lawmaker, Tuesday.

Of 111,148 ethnic Koreans legally adopted into American families, 14,189, or 12.8 percent, have failed to obtain American citizenship and are left vulnerable to deportation, said Rep. Shim Jae-kwon of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).

“While 91,719 adoptees from South Korea are confirmed to have won U.S. citizenship, the status of the remaining 14,189 adoptees is left undocumented,” said the lawmaker, who heads the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification committee, citing reports from Korea’s welfare ministry.

Since 2001, the U.S. has implemented the Child Citizen Act (CCA) that grants citizenship automatically to children adopted by U.S. citizens. But the act was not retroactively applied to adoptees that had already become legal adults.

Adoptees born before 1983, those who were not subject to the CCA, can secure U.S. citizenship only when their adoptive parents voluntarily apply with the authorities.

There are many cases where their parents overlooked the procedure, Shim said.

“Some simply believed, once they completed the process of adoption, their children would become American citizens automatically, and others inadvertently or intentionally did not do so as they were estranged from their adopted children due to their involvement in drugs, crimes or maladjustment to society,” he said.

Those adoptees without U.S. citizenship face various limitations ― they have to keep renewing their visas in order to stay in the country and are also deprived of the rights to vote and receive consular protection.

The situation is worse for adoptees with criminal records and no citizenship. According to U.S. immigration law, the federal government can deport noncitizen immigrants found guilty of aggravated felonies.

Risk runs high under the Donald Trump administration as it has actively pushed for deportations of illegal immigrants.

According to adoptee advocates, those deported to South Korea suffer financially and mentally with difficulties in finding work because of language and cultural barriers, not to mention being unable to receive medical benefits.

Referring to Phillip Clay, a Korean-American adoptee who committed suicide after being deported back to his birth country, Shim called on the government to pay more attention to the issue of noncitizen adoptees.

Clay was adopted at age eight into an American family but was deported to South Korea after 30 years in the U.S., due to his criminal record and lack of citizenship. The government-run Korea Adoption Services, in charge of looking after the adoptees deported back here, recalled Clay did not receive ongoing professional help for a mental illness that was diagnosed in 2014.

“The Moon Jae-in government should make diplomatic efforts to encourage the U.S. Congress to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act in the near future,” he said, noting it is intended to offer citizenship to anyone adopted before turning 18, regardless of when the adoption took place.


hyojinkim@ktimes.com