ICAV Meeting with US Dept of State & US Dept of Immigration

As a follow-on from our first meeting with US Department of State (USDOS), the Central Authority for intercountry adoption in the USA:

USDOS & USCIS Teleconf 18 Sept 2pm EDT
(19 Sept 4am AEST)

Minutes for Discussion on Citizenship Issues facing Intercountry Adoptees

ICAV attendees:
Sara (ARC), Maline (ARC), Lynelle (ICAV), Joey, Michael (AKA), Jenette (ACT USA), Ella

US Dept of State (DOS) attendees:
Trish Maskew

US Immigration (USCIS) attendees:
Carrie Rankin
Julie Farnham

Announced Susan Jacobs replacement has arrived as Special Advisor of Children’s Issues. Her name is Susan Lawrence: she spoke briefly and gave her background in children’s issues.

Q: When a family dissolves the adoption before applied for citizenship, is there a length of time before the child can complete the citizenship?

Julie (USCIS) advise: Child isn’t eligible until 2yrs into the adoption – the nationality act requires the child to have 2yrs in adoptive family before applying for Citizenship.

Q: Clarification of Proof of Citizenship; concerns for proof of Citizenship
USCIS advise: US passport is proof of citizenship and you can refer questions to us whether a passport is proof or not; we have info on the DOS website to indicate that both CoC and Passport is proof.

Q: Can USCIS website be updated for expat families to better understand the path for Citizenship?

There is a page on the USCIS page and drafting new page with updated language hope to have updated in a couple of weeks.

Sara (ARC) raises the issue of adoptees left out of child citizenship act like herself. She explains briefly her situation. Struggling without citizenship and undocumented. Asking for Immigration to handle our cases. Advised she is currently not allowed to call Immigration to ask about her case, have been advised only my adoptive mum is allowed; she is considered undocumented in the USA; asking what can be done to have an ongoing conversation with Immigration? Our reality is, we get deported. Also mentioned ARC has been actively pushing at Washington DC level to introduce the Bill but it’s a long drawn out process. How can Immigration handle our cases differently?

Carrie (USCIS): she wants Sara’s contact details as she hasn’t heard of ARC.

Trish (DOS): advising she doesn’t have it but for Sara to send it DoS email.

Sara (ARC): So much miscommunication and lack of urgency around adoptee citizenship. Asking for somebody to step up.

Trish (DOS): she is addressing this. There are certain things that DOS can do but we rely on others. DOS have offered to adoptee groups to give us info so we can update the website properly.

Jenette (ACT USA): asks for statistics of those without citizenship or already deported
Trish (DOS): No-one captures or keeps stats of children who are not US citizens; Deportation stats might be with ICE.

Maureen Evans (adoptive mother): Why isn’t ARC known by USCIS; why is citizenship still controversial, also asks why CoC preferred over a Passport and the implications?

Trish (DOS): DOS is aware of ARC. The adoptee without citizenship numbers cited are not confirmed and confuses the issue. Points out CoCs don’t expire whereas Passports do. Trish is happy to have as many conversations about Citizenship with the community. The passport is issued by DOS, CoC from Dept of Homeland Security.

Carrie (USCIS): refers adoptees to the website again: right hand column about Citizenship shows 2 ways to get proof of Citizenship; the passport or CoC.

Michael Mullen (AKA): is there a clear set of steps for adult adoptees to have who don’t have citizenship? The email address at DOS is a very indirect way to have help. What are the scope of options for adoptees without citizenship?

Carrie (USCIS): the website has a lot of info avail and every situation is nuanced. Important for adoptees to read the information provided with their individual case in mind. We often recommend seeking advice from Immigration attorneys but we (USCIS) can’t give legal advice. We are looking for ways to improve and add ways to help via the website.

Michael (AKA): points out that we adoptees want a point of contact. Our cases require followup. Could we see something more like a case management system? Adoptees want guidance to a good outcome.

Julie (USCIS): again refers to USCIS website. If adoptees review their situation against the information covered and still don’t know what to do, there are a few options: we can’t give legal advice but we have:

  • a list of low cost/no cost attorneys who are recommended and can give suggestions;
  • other options are to go to local USCIS office – almost every state has one; speak to an actual immigration officer and see if you can get assistance;
  • call our 1800 number if still having difficulties, go to the NBC.adoption@uscis.dhs.gov or call on 1877 424 8374 as per their website;
  • if really complicated go seek legal advice from one of the providers.

Trish (DoS): we have very limited jurisdiction re citizenship; we are saying it’s important and we are trying.

Maline (ARC): when do adoptees stop being adoptees? The entire process has been a complete headache for something I didn’t choose. I am being treated as if I was never adopted by citizens.
No-one at USCIS answer but acknowledge it is a good question.

Maline (ARC): where are the Post Reports coming from that were mentioned earlier in the call? Do adoptees themselves have any input? or just agencies or adoptive parents?

Trish (DOS): the report is coming from adoptive parents as required by some countries to report on the well being of the child. Trish acknowledges they’ve never thought of having the adoptees themselves providing this report. Some reports go via the agency others go direct, depends on the country.

Maline (ARC): points out the language needs to change on websites like USCIS when referring to adoptees because we are not children forever!

Carrie (USCIS): first time we’ve heard this raised but it is something we can take into consideration on their website.

Trish (DOS): ends on answering some other emailed questions.

(Other adoptees on the call did not get a chance to ask their questions as time was up).
Meeting Closed.

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Actions:

DOS still to provide ICAV/ARC direct contact into USCIS at Trish’s level to discuss high level Citizenship Issues for intercountry adoptees as raised in first meeting.

ICAV to followup with direct request to meet new Special Advisor – Susan Lawrence