Representatives Woodall and Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve International Adoption


Date: May 4, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Representatives Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019, which provides a much-needed fix to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

Families who adopted children from abroad were previously required to go through a lengthy and costly process to naturalize and gain United States citizenship for their adopted children. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 eliminated the need for adoptive families to apply to naturalize their newly-adopted children. However, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 only applied to adoptees who were under the age of 18 when it was enacted; it did not apply retroactively to those adoptees who faced the same dilemma but aged into adulthood before the law took effect.

Representatives Woodall and Smith's legislation would correct this problem by providing automatic citizenship to foreign-born children lawfully adopted by American families who turned 18 years old before the effective date of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

"It is estimated that between 25,000 and 49,000 children adopted to the U.S. between 1945 and 1998 lack U.S. citizenship. Most of them did not become aware of their lack of citizenship until well into their adulthood," said Congressman Woodall. "The Korean American community is home to tens of thousands of adoptees that lack eligibility for U.S. citizenship despite their legal entry and life-long residency here. Our legislation will provide a solution to close this loophole and grant the adoptees the right to citizenship they deserve."

"I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 to help achieve the vision of the original Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which sought to ensure that adopted children and biological children are treated equally under U.S. law. By closing an existing loophole in the Child Citizenship Act, this bill will extend citizenship to thousands of foreign born adoptive children who have joined their forever families here in the United States," said Congressman Smith. "Unfortunately, not all adoptees were able to benefit from the Child Citizenship Act when it originally passed, as it was limited to apply only to minors age 18 and under. Adopted individuals should not be treated as second class citizens just because they happened to be the wrong age when the Child Citizenship Act became law."

"We thank Congressman Woodall for supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 as an original co-sponsor. The continued bipartisan support for this issue is a testament to its humanitarian nature. Due to a bureaucratic loophole, tens of thousands of intercountry adoptees who were promised a home here in the United States decades ago have been left hanging," said Wonseok Song, Executive Director of the Korean American Grassroots Conference. "Thanks to Congressman Woodall's compassion and collaboration across the aisle, we are one huge step closer to addressing the problem. The Korean American community is home to the greatest number of impacted adoptees, and KAGC along with its partner organizations is committed to shedding a light on this critical, yet overlooked issue."

"Passing the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 will establish equality among adoptees and their families, prevent deportation, and promote economic stability. Citizenship recognition also fosters emotional healing for transracial adoptees who are not accepted as Americans," said Joy Alessi, Program Director for the Adoptee Rights Campaign. "A proud partner of the Korean American Grassroots Conference, the Adoptee Rights Campaign thanks Representative Rob Woodall for his leadership of this important legislation."