Thousands of Adults Adopted From Other Countries as Children Living in Fear of Deportation | NBC Southern California

Thousands of Adults Adopted From Other Countries as Children Living in Fear of Deportation



    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017)

    Thousands of adults who were adopted from other countries as children are living in fear of deportation.

    A few months ago, a 41-year-old man who was adopted by Americans as a baby, was deported to South Korea.

    “This is the only country that I know, that I have lived all my life,” said Emily Warnecke, an undocumented adoptee.

    Warnecke was only 3-months-old when she was adopted from a South Korean orphanage by an American World War II veteran and his wife.

    Uniter States Fish and Wildlife Service

    Growing up, Warnecke was told she was a naturalized citizen.

    It wasn't until this 53-year-old former aerospace employee became disabled that she discovered she's not a U.S. citizen.

    “They told me they couldn't give me my full benefits because I had to be a citizen,” she said.

    Immigration paperwork for international adoptions wasn't always filed accurately in the past, which is why a law passed in 2001 gives automatic citizenship to adoptees from other countries, but that law only applies to people born after 1983. That leaves about 35,000 older adoptees undocumented, including a woman who asked NBC4 to identify her only as "Sara." 

    Sara, who is also an undocumented adoptee, said she struggled with “hopelessness” and “depression.”

    She was 2-years-old when she was adopted from an Iranian orphanage by an American serviceman and his wife.

    “I’ve spent every day of my life thankful I was given a second chance at life,” Sara said.

    She moved to the US, went to school and college. She is now a homeowner with a high-profile career.

    “You could call it the American Dream.”

    But, all of that is in jeopardy since she found out she’s not a citizen.

    The Adoptee Citizenship Act would fix the problem for her and other older adoptees, but the bill is stalled in Congress.

    “I ask Congress to do the right thing. The bill is there and they've made many attempts to pass the bill and we need them to do the right thing,” she said.

    Older adoptees and their advocates have been flooding Congress members with thousands of postcards urging them to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act.

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