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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: February 27, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E216]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr27fe02-17]                         
 
ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE ENACTMENT OF THE CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT 
                                OF 2001
                                 ______
                                 
                        HON. WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT

                            of massachusetts

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, February 27, 2002

  Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr. Speaker, for all our colleagues in this chamber, 
the days are long and the rewards often intangible. Once in a great 
while, however, the results of our work together are so compelling that 
it's worth stopping for a moment to take notice.
  In this spirit, I rise today to celebrate the first anniversary of 
the implementation of the Child Citizenship Act of 2001. With the help 
of a remarkable bipartisan coalition--Congressmen Henry Hyde and Lamar 
Smith; Senators Don Nickles, Mary Landrieu and Ted Kennedy, to name 
just a few--we made history for tens of thousands of American families, 
and for the scores of overseas orphans they have embraced as their own.
  On February 27, 2001, United States citizenship was conferred 
automatically on every young child under age 18 adopted by American 
parents. By the most conservative estimates, more than 150,000 children 
woke up that morning as American citizens.
  The joy of that sunny morning brimmed on the faces of adoptive 
families, their relatives and neighbors from coast to coast. 
Spontaneous commemorations, public and private, sprouted up in dozens 
of communities across the country, from Atlanta to Alaska.
  It was a special pleasure to help host the national celebration one 
year ago today, in Boston's historic Fanueil Hall. Since its 
construction in 1742, that hall has occupied a hallowed place on our 
nation's trail toward freedom. It witnessed the revolutionary speeches 
of Samuel Adams, the anti-slavery oratory of Frederick Douglass, and 
the stirring call of Susan B. Anthony for women's suffrage. Last 
February 27, we gathered in that cradle of liberty to mark another step 
forward.
  The new law lives not only in the bright eyes of these children and 
the pride in their parents' hearts, but also in the story of human 
compassion. In addition to those ``overnight citizens'' of last 
February 27, the Child Citizenship Act has conferred automatic U.S. 
citizenship upon the lawful completion of each international adoption 
since. In 2001 alone, U.S. parents adopted over 4600 orphans from China 
and 4200 from Russia, 1700 from South Korea, 1600 from Guatemala, 1200 
from Ukraine, 700 from each of Romania, Vietnam and Kazakhstan; 500 
from India; 400 from Cambodia; and hundreds more from Bulgaria, 
Colombia, the Philippines, Haiti, Ethiopia, Poland, Thailand, Mexico, 
Jamaica, Liberia, and dozens of other nations--altogether, more than 
19,000 overseas children since the new law took effect.
  Each is now a United States citizen. Not one had to struggle with the 
red tape or expense of the naturalization process. No federal agency 
was saddled with reams of paperwork to process their cases.
  The real meaning, of course, cannot adequately be measured in 
statistics. The deepest gratification lies in the strengthening of the 
family--the American family and the universal, extended family of which 
we are all a part. During the Faneuil Hall celebration, my own daughter 
Kara, herself a beneficiary of the Saigon Babylift 26 years ago and a 
naturalized citizen, stressed that U.S. citizenship is not a rejection 
of one's country of origin, but rather an opportunity to weave a new, 
deeply personal heritage.
  The enactment of the Child Citizenship Act was a model of bipartisan 
legislative collaboration. I still hope to build on this success to 
address, either administratively or through additional legislation, a 
number of questions that remain about the Act's application to children 
of American citizens living abroad.
  My only real disappointment--last February and still today--is the 
reluctance of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to 
streamline its protocols for issuing certificates of citizenship.
  Many of the 150,000 who assumed citizenship last year, and those 
since adopted, naturally desire official affirmation of their new 
status. Thousands have taken advantage of the new State Department 
procedures to acquire United States passports. The process is so 
straightforward that Senator Kennedy was able to hand-deliver the first 
such passport in the nation on the stage at the Fanueil Hall 
celebration, within two hours of the legislation taking effect.
  Inexplicably, however, the INS still has not followed suit. If an 
adoptive child who is now a U.S. citizen seeks an INS certificate, he 
or she must undergo the same lengthy, expensive and cumbersome process 
that faces a non-citizen seeking naturalization. This procedure is 
irrationally burdensome for both the applicant and the agency; and it 
offends nearly everyone who has the misfortune to have to undergo it.
  These children are already American citizens. All adoptive parents 
want is a piece of paper affirming that fact. It should be no harder 
than getting a driver's license--or a passport.
  Fortunately, this problem cannot negate the enormous benefits the law 
has conferred on adoptive families and our entire community. Especially 
in the wake of September 11, as we all struggle against global 
misunderstanding, this new law helps fulfill the lifelong dream of 
thousands of families and shows enormous respect to the compassion of 
our own great, diverse and generous nation.
                          ____________________




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