Getting to grow up in Kansas felt like hitting the jackpot to me. I was adopted by my parents in 1983 from South Korea. After years of waiting and wanting, they finally received their squalling 4-month-old bundle of joy. My parents never missed an opportunity to lavish attention upon me. Whenever I made mention of the slightest interest in an activity — such as karate, archery or playing the violin and guitar — they would supply me with whatever I needed to pursue my dreams, regardless of cost. In 2016, I heard rumors that hundreds of American adoptees who were raised here were being deported from the United States back to their birth countries — even after getting an education and working in this country for their entire lives. For months, I had panic attacks, afraid that Immigration and Customs Enforcement could tear me away from my child. My parents reassured me I was a naturalized citizen, but the fear remained. The realization that many adoptees could legally be stripped of their basic human rights and dignity, separated from their loved ones and deported to a country they did not know, whose language they did not speak, was devastating. Before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, adoption and citizenship proceedings were two separate, arduous and expensive processes that required legal support. Many adoptees were not granted citizenship, despite their becoming the legal children of U.S. citizen parents. Whether because of bureaucratic oversights, honest mistakes, or abuse and manipulation of the system, many adoptees were left without the same rights and protections as their parents’ biological children.
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