I came upon your website today and found several thoughtful comments. Perhaps this is the place to pose my question. Is it ever okay to not get U.S. citizenship for an internationally adopted child? I have read the horror stories of deportation and know that no one seems to question the necessity of getting U.S. citizenship. In fact adoptive parents are urged to make sure this is done before the child reaches adulthood. My child was adopted at age ten and doesn’t like a lot of things about American culture. He has stated he does not want to be a citizen of the U.S., yet he does not see himself going back to his country. I hope I am not a terrible parent for questioning this issue.
Dual citizenship is not permitted in his case. I figure I could let him make the decision after he is 18, but there is always a chance something could go wrong and end in deportation between the time he turns 18 and the time he decides for himself. I also considered that he may be able as an adult to reject his U.S. citizenship and apply for citizenship of his own country. Most likely I will get his U.S. citizenship. I always tell him that it is okay to not like aspects of this country and that others would agree with him, even those immigrants who moved here of their own choice.
Answer: I would agree with what has been posted so far, castigating as it were (and given the limited amount of information we have) the negligence on the part of a parent who does not provide for a solid grounding in this child’s new-found place, especially after dispossessing the child from his land of birth. I was naturalized a citizen when I was five years old; what were/are you waiting for? How did this happen? How often does this happen is perhaps the bigger question.
Having said that, the question opens up a much bigger discussion concerning place/non-place, belonging, and the rights afforded us by virtue of being citizens. In an ironic way, I can imagine the “non-place” of this child between his land of birth and the place he was adopted to, because I am more and more familiar with it, as an adoptee returned, with no will to return (like this child) or no ability to truly assimilate (as has been mentioned).
To gain insight into what the reality is of those who actually live this way, we can look at those who are truly “stateless”–for one example, the Palestinian people, or that of the Bedouin populations, the Roma in Europe, or the case of immigrants to the United States who are now facing deportations that are breaking up their families, because the children were born in the U.S. This idea of jus soli, or right of citizenship based on birth, is a “New World” right, based in economic and political decisions having to do with cheap labor and public relations concerning “freedom” more than actually investing immigrant groups as citizens.
But the “New World” is getting rather old, and the “Old World” is reverting to a “wall them out” mentality as well. Because of the way that U.S. law works, deportation is seen as a punishment, and therefore does not extend to family members, just the individual. It is becoming easier to be caught up in the grinding gears of immigration bureaucracy these days; this can involve overstaying one’s visa, speaking out on campus or online, or simply (these days) having an Arab-, Hispanic-, or Muslim-“sounding” name or surname and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can see in American law vestigial elements of a mimicked Greek Athenian philosophy which bestows citizenship on some, while pauperizing others in this regard. It’s a cruel system, and the greater goal should probably be not to run afoul of it.
In terms of adoptees’ rights in their lands of birth, a lot depends on the originating country. Lebanese adoptees like myself have a chance at citizenship here, but this is based on our bogus paperwork and the class status afforded by our bourgeoisification and acculturation in our adoptive country. This is hugely ironic, given the inability of local immigrant populations or refugees to gain citizenship. This is painful when these populations end up one’s friends—how to explain such a disparity? The Lebanese population is currently one-fourth Syrian refugees and migrant workers, for example; they have no hope of becoming part of the body politic. Similarly, Lebanese adoptees taken during the war without this paper trail have no such right; nor adoptees with fathers unknown (Lebanese nationality is patrilineal). All laws and all rights lean toward those who “have”, and so to be of this class and not provide such privilege to a child you are caring for is rather disturbing.
This brings up a point being discussed, which is the idea of “dual citizenship”. To note is that like jus soli, hosting countries take advantage of certain immigrant groups by “claiming them”, especially if they represent an important brain drain on the supply country (India or Germany, for example) or if their supply country allows for the voting of foreign nationals—who tend to be much more conservative in an attempt to assimilate—in which case the hosted population acts as an agent of foreign policy (Lebanon or Korea, for example). And whereas the United States nominally since a 1952 Supreme Court decision allows for dual nationality, it maintains the “right” to renounce American nationality based on its assumptions as to intent vs. the national interest:
The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign nationality does not affect U.S. citizenship; however, the acquisition of a foreign nationality upon one’s own application may cause loss of U.S. citizenship under Section 349(a)(1) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1481). In order for loss of nationality to occur under Section 349(a)(1), it must be established that the naturalization was obtained with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Such an intention may be shown by a person’s statements or conduct. If the U.S. Government is unable to prove that the person had such an intention when applying for and obtaining the foreign citizenship, the person will have both nationalities.
Adoptees beware, especially if you currently belong to a group targeted by the U.S. State Department. The child in this case should weigh things carefully as he grows up. United States laws are increasingly aiming to marginalize, deport, and eliminate groups seen as posing any kind of internal “threat” however defined by the United States (the political “reverse” of reservations, internment camps, and prisons). This child does not have “free speech” to air his views concerning how he feels about his American acculturation. Were the Patriot Act II to be passed, no one would have even this as birthright or, indeed, as a right in general.
Those of us who are naturalized who “run afoul” of increasingly restrictive laws risk losing our bank accounts, our ability to travel to and from the U.S., and/or our citizenship based on this as well as a variety of bills either under consideration or passed into law that forbid advocacy for or contact with so-called terrorist groups, even though locally said groups may indeed be valid political actors, democratically elected, etc.; or the vagaries of American politics might see all of a sudden former foes as friends. I state this emphatically as a warning because greater freedom of speech in a foreign country for a U.S. national becomes a trap and a double-edged sword.
For example, television stations, newspapers, etc. here in Lebanon are politically affiliated; I have to weigh what the consequences are of appearing on a particular television station or taking part in a newspaper interview when discussing the social welfare, for example, the trafficking of children in Lebanon. I have to ascertain what the perception of this appearance will be by the U.S. State Department. Activism on behalf of Palestinians, for example, requires dealing with a full spectrum of political actors in varying degrees; that the U.S. should focus on a few of these and make determinations about one’s status as a citizen thereof is a twisted and egregious misuse of the notions of citizenry of supposedly “free” nations. And thus we are silenced.
Perhaps it is a good point to explain to this child that to be naturalized as a minor requires a sworn statement of the petitioner of citizenship, not s/he being naturalized, if I’m not mistaken. Once he is 18, then he will be required to make this oath, and this might make a difference in how he views it. Personally, I am glad that my adoptive father made this oath on my behalf, especially now that I’ve lived through wars funded and armed by the U.S., and am currently living through the counter-revolutions sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. It was my father’s will, and not necessarily mine, that resulted in American citizenship, and this is a consolation of sorts.
I make these political comments as statements of fact, not to enflame or annoy. Because for any adoptee traveling back or moving back to their originating place, there is a need to acknowledge the politics of the Empire that preceded them. This has made it often difficult at times to connect with people here, and I understand why. It also makes it more and more difficult to connect with those left behind. And this is the psychological counterpart to physical statelessness, and I am not sure which is worse.
In this regard, my acculturation in the United States and my American passport are albatrosses around my neck, despite my friends telling me they allow me to go “anywhere”. This isn’t necessarily true; to travel locally in this region or the Global South is much easier with a Lebanese passport which I am trying to obtain via a re-established nationality. My students who not so long ago had no problem obtaining a visa for their studies abroad are now being rejected simply for being Lebanese and/or of a particular sect; they are refocusing their future on other places more welcoming to them—an increasingly shrinking venue.
And thus my re-entry to the United States each time I visit becomes more and more a painful reminder of the rejection afforded to the adults who, as children, are seemingly welcomed in with open arms. I now see these as deceptive arms, and their reach is long, and their judgment is final. Caveat emigrator; especially when s/he is migrating against his or her will.
The concept of citizenship, its relation to the formation of nation-states many of which (like Lebanon) were created wholly out of the foreign policies of the adoptive country and its “First World” allies, the concept of travel as opposed to displacement and dispossession, and who is effected by these and why, all paint a damning picture of adoption when we analyze them thoroughly.
The simple answer is that you should have naturalized this child if only to provide a more solid and stable base for him, especially after destabilizing him from his origins in the first place. Adoptive parents are a microcosm of the country that allows them to dispossess others, and for them to “lord it over” the destiny of the child temporarily in their care is horrifying when mapped onto the greater culture’s insouciant disregard for concepts of citizenship or belonging.
Consenting Muslims in America , by Hamid Dabashi.
Public Power in the Age of Empire, by Arundhati Roy.
Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror, by Tariq Ali.
Civil Rights in Peril: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims, edited by Elaine C. Hagopian.
You Have No Rights, by Matthew Rothschild.
No One Is Illegal, by Justin Akers Chacon.
Exploited, by Toby Shelley.
Debate Tactic: This discussion is almost certain to elicit the “Love It or Leave It” immune response of Americans. And so there is some consolation in having “left it”. All the same, my time spent with those who are literally “without state” has shed an entirely new light on the notion of who belongs and who doesn’t; I imagine this must be similar to the sentiment of those belonging to Indigenous Nations in North America. Similar to adoption discussions which get past the status quo idea that adoption is a “given” and a “starting point”, this discussion similarly need call into question our comfortable concepts of the nation-state, and what it means to be afforded “belonging”, especially when this can be taken away at any moment. Everything about the capitalist system focuses on removing connections to place and property, and as such the definers of these concepts control the shots. For parents who adopt, to be unaware of this is a criminal act of dispossession, on top of that which was our adoption.