One would think that when U.S. citizen parents adopt a child from another country the child automatically gains citizenship upon adoption. However, this is not the case, and misunderstanding has caused major problems with family immigration.
In one situation, a family was told by a state agency that the Mexico-born child they were adopting would automatically gain U.S. citizenship through the adoption process. It wasn't until the child grew up and applied for a driver's permit that she realized she was in the country illegally.
The girl's mother immediately tried to help her daughter apply for permanent residency, but after almost two years on the waiting list and many fees later, they learned it was too late. The girl had already turned 18 and was now subject to a three-year ban from the country for being an undocumented immigrant.
When the girl was close to 19, a 10-year ban was put in place. This meant the girl would have to return to Mexico and wait for 10 years before she could apply for residency and come back to the United States.
Luckily, federal officials sympathized with the girl's situation just before her 20th birthday and said she would be granted a temporary U visa. These visas are provided to only 10,000 people a year who are victims of crime. (The girl had been abused by her biological mother before she was adopted.)
But by this time, the girl and her family were beyond upset. She had been living in fear of deportation, wasn't able to go to college because she couldn't qualify for student aid and wasn't able to legally work. The family decided to take action.
They filed a $1 million lawsuit against the agency that had wrongly informed them that the girl would become a citizen through adoption, and a state court of appeals recently decided that the case can proceed. An attorney representing the girl said they are now entering settlement negotiations with the state.
Source: The Seattle Times, "Case in adoption-immigration snafu to proceed," Aug. 19, 2012