Natural-Born Citizen Act

Yesterday’s blog talked about our children’s citizenship. While our internationally adopted children now are considered citizens from the time the adoption is finalized and they have entered the U.S., they are not considered “natural-born citizens”. This means that they can never become President or Vice President of the United States.

Granted, the chances of becoming President are not great and it is unlikely this will have a significant impact on their career decisions. If government is their calling, there are many positions in which they can serve. Nevertheless, “You could be President someday” is a common way of encouraging children, and of expressing pride In our country: “In America, anyone can become the President!” So the ability to become President has become highly symbolic.

I wrote here about my daughter asking me if she could become the President some day (as of now, the answer is, unfortunately, no.)

An act was introduced in the 108th Congress in 2004 that would solve this problem for children who were adopted before they were 18 years of age by U.S. citizens, parents who are eligible to transmit U.S. citizenship to their birth children.

Introduced by Senator Don Nickels, Republican from Oklahoma, and co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Act clarifies that “natural-born citizen” means citizens meeting one of three conditions: born in the U.S. and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, born outside the United States to U.S. citizen parents, who can pass their citizenship to their children; and to be adopted, before age 18, by U.S. citizen parents who can pass their citizenship to their children.

I think this is right and proper. Our children do not have emotional ties to other countries in the same way immigrants do. Neither are they, as immigrant children may be, being raised by parents with emotional ties to another country.

Of course I am not saying that immigrants cannot be good citizens. We know many public servants, from politicians to firefighters to teachers to businesspeople to nurses and those who practice every profession and even serve in the U.S. armed forces, who immigrated to this country.

I am saying rather that to tell an adopted child that she does not have all the privileges of other American children is to, in effect, make her “a person without a country”. This is the country of her parents, the only country she knows. (Even if she has some memories of his life abroad before adoption, this is the country she has consciously known and grown up in.) I can say definitively that my daughters consider themselves emphatically American.

Unfortunately, this proposed Act did not make it out of committee, which meant that it will have to be introduced all over again in a subsequent session of Congress.

A group called Equality for Adopted Children (EACH) supported this bill, but also wants to see a Constitutional Amendment stating that children adopted by U.S. parents are natural-born citizens. They say that while, in the absence of judicial interpretation of Constitutional language, Congress may express a legislative opinion; however they believe an amendment would more definitively establish the rights of adopted children.

My personal prediction (not that I’m an expert in political predictions) is that a bill such as the Natural-
Born Citizen Act would be a lot easier to pass than a Constitutional Amendment. It wouldn’t have to be ratified by the individual states, so I see it as more likely to happen.

I guess I should write my Congressperson (after November, once I know who he/she will be next year) and Senators to ask them to introduce such a bill in a future Congress. Hopefully someone can move it out of committee a bit faster.

It would be nice if it happened soon, so that I can tell Meg.

Please see this related blog:

Would They Have Done That to Me?

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!