United States

House Bill Could Help Foreign Adoptees Who Later Learned They Aren't US Citizens

A bill introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House Tuesday could provide relief for tens of thousands of people adopted from foreign countries as children only to learn years later they are not U.S. citizens.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 aims to close a gap in the law that's been there for almost 20 years.

Currently, when an American legally adopts a child from another country, that child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen, but the existing law excludes adoptees who'd already become adults by the time it passed.

That left tens of thousands of adoptees in legal limbo. American parents often brought foreign-born children here on whichever visa was fastest. Some are now considered visa overstays and subject to deportation.

In February, the News4 I-Team shared the story of a Virginia man who's lived here for decades. He has a green card, but his parents never filled out the proper paperwork to make him a citizen.

Advocates say the new bill would make a huge difference if it passes.

"I think it's a good step in the right direction,” said Joy Kim-Alessi of the Adoptee Rights Campaign. “It's going to fix the problem to a large degree. We do have concerns."

There are some restrictions in the proposed bill. Kim-Alessi said it would exclude adoptees who don't have current legal status, those who entered the U.S. illegally as children and those who fail a criminal background check.

A similar bill is expected in the Senate in the next few weeks, and there is bipartisan support, so the adoptees are hoping these bills will succeed where earlier versions did not.

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