Overview of federal legislation introduced in the 118th Congress that may directly or indirectly impact adopted people in the United States. State legislative summaries are available here.
KEY: Support | Neutral | Oppose | Impacts intercountry adoptees
Equal Citizenship for Children Act
HR1386 [Redlined PDF]. Introduced by Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-09) and Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12), the Equal Citizenship for Children Act would amend current law so that those who were or are under 18 years of age and residing in the United States in the legal custody of a US citizen parent (whether adoptive or biological and including naturalized US citizens) would automatically acquire US citizenship, retroactive to those born after 12:00pm EST on January 9, 1941. The person, while under the age of 18, must also have been residing in the United States as a legal permanent resident (i.e., possessed a green card) or had a “pending application to adjust status to lawful permanent resident.”
While the bill is intended to repeal the so-called “Guyer Rule,” a more than century old legal doctrine used to deny US citizenship to children born abroad to US citizen fathers—disproportionately Black fathers—the key provision in the bill provides retroactive citizenship to 1941 for those impacted by the rule. This would, in addition, assure US citizenship for intercountry adoptees so long as they had met the requirements of the Act while under the age of 18. Presumably, this would include previously deported adoptees (though this may be complicated and needs more analysis). It would not, however, apply to intercountry adoptees or others who arrived in the United States on a non-immigrant visa (e.g., a tourist/visitor visa) and who did not obtain a green card while under the age of 18. The act also dispenses with a requirement of physical custody of the child with their US citizen parent(s), and clarifies the definition of a child to include 1) “the nonmarital child of a legal custodian citizen father” and 2) the child of a US citizen parent if the parent-child relationship is recognized under US or foreign parentage laws.
The bill currently has multiple Democratic sponsors/co-sponsors in the House, and has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Adoption COUNTS Act
HR6700. Would require state courts to report the number of private adoptions each year to the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since approximately 1975, most states and the federal government discontinued the collection of data on how many people each year were adopted through private adoptions. Today, we can only estimate how many adoptees are in the United States, and that estimate includes a great deal of ad hoc guesswork and research. Needless to say, adoptees have generally disappeared from overall statistics for almost two generations. HR6700 attempts to change that. It would require, as part of federal funding, that state courts report the number of private adoptions each year to the US Children’s Bureau. The count would also require reporting the age of the adoptee at the time of the adoption, whether the adoption was through a step-parent, legal guardian, or unrelated person, and whether the person was born as a result of gestational surrogacy. Importantly, the bill would require reporting whether the adoptive parents gained custody of the child through an international adoption placement or international guardianship. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5).
HR6220. Seeks to reduce unregulated and unethical practices in adoption. The Adoption Deserves Oversight, Protection, and Transparency (ADOPT) Act seeks to crack down on unlicensed for-profit baby brokers and prohibits certain advertising and payments associated with adoptions. The core provisions:
- prohibit adoption advertising and paid private adoption services unless they are through a licensed child-placing agency or licensed attorney; and
- restrict payments to birthmothers unless the payments are made through a licensed provider in the state where the mother lives.
Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929
HR1511/S.2606. Legislation that would adjust the “registry” provision in current law, which today allows non-citizens who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 1972, to apply for a green card (legal permanent residence). The bills would eliminate the specific date-based restriction of January 1, 1972, and would instead allow “long-term residents of the United States” to apply for a green card. Long-term residents are generally defined as those who “entered the United States at least 7 years before the application date.” While this bill would not help intercountry adoptees who have a green card already (but lack US citizenship) it would help a surprising number of intercountry adoptees who did not enter the country on an immigrant visa (e.g., entered the US as a tourist or entered without proof of admission) but were otherwise adopted. As of October 12, 2023, the House bill has 74 sponsors and co-sponsors and the Senate bill has 9 sponsors and co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats or Independents.
Dream Act of 2023
S.365. The Dream Act (short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) has been around since 2001, when it was first introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). He’s continued to introduce it every session, and it’s now into the 118th Congressional Session. This time Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC) has joined Durbin in sponsoring the bill. While not directly a bill addressing the lack of US citizenship for intercountry adoptees, it would provide a path to US citizenship for intercountry adoptees who are not lawfully present in the United States, whether they entered the country without inspection (EWI) or entered on non-immigrant visas (which ultimately expired, making them unlawfully present). The bill would allow those unlawfully present in the US to secure DACA-like protections and work authorization, plus provide conditional permanent residence (CPR), ultimately allowing them to apply for and secure U.S. citizenship after a specified number of years.
Hospital Adoption Education Act
HR1475. The bill’s purpose is “to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and nationally disseminate accurate, relevant, and accessible resources to promote understanding about sensitivities regarding adoption in the health care industry.” Essentially, this bill would provide grant funding to “a health care-based education organization that focuses on adoption,” though adoption agencies and abortion providers are excluded from such grants. It also requires creation of a committee of “adoption experts” to provide assistance but does not include adopted people in the list of individuals to be appointed to the committee. The head of the National Center for Adoption supports the bill, stating in one release that “Health care workers often play a key role in helping individuals with an unintended pregnancy, yet too often these health care workers don’t know how to provide accurate, non-directive information about adoption. We’re grateful to Rep. Smucker and Rep. Davis for their leadership on this bipartisan effort to ensure that health care workers have the ability to support expectant parents to understand and make a decision about adoption.” The bill appropriates $5 million for implementation.
Recently Filed Bills
S.3551. Filed but not yet analyzed. The description currently states that it is a “a bill to modify the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 to provide a limited accreditation option for performing certain adoption services.”
Notes: Analysis by Gregory D. Luce. Current as of February 11, 2024. Bills previously introduced in the 117th Congress, from 2021 to 2023, are available here.