Overview of federal legislation introduced in the 118th Congress that impacts adopted people in the United States. State legislative summaries are available here.
Analysis by Gregory D. Luce. Current as of August 23, 2023. Bills with a globe icon indicate that the bills impact intercountry adoptees in the United States.
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.”
The key provision for intercountry adoptees is retroactivity, which would 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.
It has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
The bill currently has 21 sponsors/co-sponsors in the House, including Alma Adams (NC-12); Nanette Barragán (CA-44); Jamaal Bowman (NY-16); Greg Casar (TX-35); Sean Casten (IL-60); Adriano Espaillat (NY-13); Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-4); Daniel Goldman (NY-10); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Glenn Ivey (MD-04); Sara Jacobs (CA-51); Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04); Barbara Lee (CA-12); Ted Lieu (CA-36); James P. McGovern (MA-2); Grace Meng (NY-06); Rashida Tlaib (MI-12); Jill Tokuda (HI-2); David J. Trone (MD-06); Juan Vargas (CA-52); and Nikema Williams (GA-05).
Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929
HR1511/S.2606. This is a bill that would adjust the “registry” provision in current law, which 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 August 23, 2023, the House bill has 65 sponsors and co-sponsors and the Senate bill has 6 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 in 2023. This time Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC) has joined him 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 certain 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. The focus is on 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.
Note: bills introduced in the 117th Congress, from 2021 to 2023, are available here.