The House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act with the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021, a bill that would grant benefits to thousands of adoptees who were legally adopted and brought to the U.S. by their citizen parents.
The National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and Adoptees For Justice — “an intercountry adoptee-led social justice organization” — have worked together for the past eight years in an effort to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act, which was approved with the America COMPETES Act on Friday by a vote of 222-210.
The bill is now on its way to the Senate floor for consideration, KBS World reported.
If enacted into law, “the Adoptee Citizenship Act will enable thousands of adoptees to access critical supports like disability benefits, social security, housing, and education loans, and provide a pathway for adoptees who have been unjustly deported to return home and be reunited with their families,” Adoptees For Justice and NAKASEC said in a joint statement.
Taneka Jennings, director of Adoptees For Justice, considers the bill a solution to a loophole in the 2000 Child Citizenship Act.
“The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 is a long-overdue piece of legislation that resolves a technical oversight caused by an arbitrary age cut-off date in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000,” Jennings said in the statement. “It is a lifeline for many adoptees without citizenship, and affirms that intercountry adoptees should be afforded the same basic rights and protections as their U.S. citizen parents’ biological children.”
The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 was introduced in March 2021 in the House of Representatives by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and John Curtis (R-Utah) and in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
Congressman Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who cosponsored the bill, said he is optimistic that the Senate will approve the legislation.
“There are people in the United States that know this country as their home; who were adopted, but were not granted citizenship even though they are part of American families,” Kim told NextShark. “I cosponsored the Adoptee Citizenship Act and am thrilled it passed the House as part of the America COMPETES act because this grants citizenship to so many that have deserved it for far too long. Now we have to keep up the energy to find agreement with the Senate to push for passage into law.”
Smith described the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives as a “major step forward for many international adoptees who… were never granted citizenship.”
“These individuals grew up here and started careers and families, but through no fault of their own they never received citizenship and are living in uncertainty about their future,” the representative said. “The Adoptee Citizenship Act will provide much needed certainty to affected adoptees, ensuring that these individuals have full access to their rights as American citizens.”
Emily Warnecke, a Korean adoptee without citizenship, shared that she is relieved the Adoptee Citizenship Act has finally been passed after she worked on the bill for so many years.
“As an impacted adoptee, I have been worried every day about how I will survive in my senior years,” Warnecke said. “If this legislation becomes law, it will literally be life-changing for me.”