Years ago, United States-citizen parents of adopted, foreign-born children were expected to file an application with immigration officials to ensure legal citizenship of the children. Some adoptive parents never got around to the process of naturalizing their children. As a result, the adoptees became legal residents, subject to deportation for law violations.
A new law in 2000 made citizenships for adopted children easier to obtain. Therefore, children who are adopted today from other counties do not face this risk. However, adoptees who were brought into the country before the law change may still face an uphill legal battle.
For example, a 30-year-old woman was adopted in infancy from an orphanage in India. The adoptive mother died of cancer eight years later, before she had a chance to pursue naturalized citizenship for the child. Therefore, the child remained a non-citizen legal resident.
Years past and the child grew into an adult woman. Unfortunately, she ran into trouble with the law in 2004 when she pleaded guilty to check forgery. The woman was then jailed for a probation violation in 2007, and immigration officials investigated the woman's legal status.
Recently, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed an immigration court's ruling that the young woman could be deported for her legal troubles as check forgery is a deportable offense for noncitizens.
Ironically, everything could have been different if the adoptee had been born less than one year earlier. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allowed foreign-born adoptees to become citizens almost automatically. However, the statute was not retroactive, so adoptees born before the law took effect are not covered by it.
Sadly, this gap in the law has led to many adoptees, who were raised in the United States by American parents, being deported to countries they can hardly call home.
Source: Southern California Public Radio, "How does an adoptee get deported? More easily than one might think," Leslie Berestein Rojas, May 29, 2012