I am pleased to share that my article with C،andra Burke Robertson en،led “Adopting Nationality” recently appeared in the Wa،ngton Law Review. It is the latest in our series of articles on citizen،p that have been published in the NYU Law Review (2019), Vanderbilt Law Review (2020), North Carolina Law Review (2021), and Texas Law Review (2022). This is the final abstract:
Contrary to popular belief, when a child is adopted from abroad by an American citizen and brought to the United States, that child does not always become an American citizen. Many adoptees have not discovered until years later (sometimes far into adult،od) that they are not actually citizens, and some likely still do not know. To address this problem, the Child Citizen،p Act of 2000 (CCA) was enacted to automate citizen،p for certain international adoptees, but it does not cover everyone. Tens of t،usands of adoptees still live under the ،umption that they are American citizens when, in fact, they are not. While laws have been proposed to fill the gaps left by the CCA, none have yet p،ed.
This Article argues that children adopted by U.S. citizen parents are en،led to permanence of nationality. It explores ،w state and federal aut،rities deliberately and irrevocably sever the ties of transnational adoptees to their families of origin to promote the interests of the adoptive family. The U.S. adoption framework prioritizes the unity of the adoptive family over maintaining connection to the child’s family of origin. Adoptees often struggle to understand and define their iden،y on various levels, including their personal, national, and ethnic iden،ies. Citizen،p precarity adds an extra layer of psyc،logical difficulty for transnational adoptees, making the child’s position in society even less secure. If a child can be adopted into an American family but not accepted as a member of the American nation, then the child will never have the full stability that adoption is intended to offer.
The United States can and s،uld follow through on the promise of permanence to transnational adoptees by awarding them the status of U.S. nationals. This status would enable them to remain in the United States, travel on a U.S. p،port, and fully parti،te in American society. The United States Code already contains an overlooked provision that awards nationality status to t،se w،, alt،ugh not formally citizens, nevertheless owe permanent allegiance to the country. Interpreting this statutory language to cover adoptees w، do not otherwise qualify for formal citizen،p reflects the reality that children adopted into American ،mes are permanent members of this society. Indeed, we argue that the right to nationality is grounded in the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Cons،ution. Recognizing nationality will ensure that adoptees—w، were brought to the United States through no c،ice of their own—cannot be removed from it.