Utah’s international adoptees urge U.S. Senate to make citizenship automatic

Dec 17, 2022, 9:39 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2022, 10:18 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Tens of thousands of people adopted in the United States from other countries do not have citizenship. Advocates are making a last-minute appeal to Congress to help those international adoptees through the Adoptee Citizenship Act. 

“I have personally met many international adoptees who are living in Utah – Utah’s their home – and they don’t have citizenship,” said Sara Jones, volunteer for Adoptees for Justice, “and this is really worrisome to them. It can be scary. It can make them feel vulnerable.”

 Jones grew up in Utah. Two Utahns adopted her from Korea in the 1970s and worked through the naturalization process, but she knows families that did not or could not help their kids become citizens.

 “The parents were really, really ill, had cancer when they were younger and so their emotional resources were more applied to surviving and living,” she said, “and they unfortunately didn’t finish the naturalization for their child, and in her 40s, she found out she was not a U.S. citizen.”

 Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, helped the bill pass in the U.S. House, but it’s the final week for the Senate to take action.

“I love the momentum that’s building,” Curtis said in a video shared on Instagram by Adoptees for Justice, “and a message to everybody, especially on the Senate side, please take a hard look at this. We’d love your support.”

Congress made it easier for international adoptees to get automatic citizenship back in 2001, but that only applied to children.

At least 50 adoptees have been deported since then, according to Adoptees for Justice. Jones said they were sent to their birth countries, “where they do not know the language or culture, have no known family and have little chance of economic survival.”

“It’s just a little technical oversight that has massive consequences for real people,” Jones said.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act includes adults left out of the original bill. The adoptees currently living without citizenship would now be in their late 30s or beyond.

“We need Republican senators to speak up and to tell congressional leaders that they want the Adoptee Citizenship Act in the spending package,” Jones said.

The bill will die if not passed in the coming days because Congress is wrapping up its session for the year.

Jones said the bill could impact dozens of Utahns brought here as children from other countries. Nationwide, an estimated 25,000 to 49,000 international adoptees are currently living without citizenship, according to the Adoptee Rights Campaign.

“I hope we’re able to get it across the finish line,” Rep. Curtis said.

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Utah’s international adoptees urge U.S. Senate to make citizenship automatic