This past February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement knocked on Adam Crasper’s door, arrested him and began the process of deportation. There has been a lot of talk about Adam Crasper, a married father of three from Washington State. For those of you who may not know, Adam was a little boy who was adopted from South Korea. He entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident, a green card holder. This happened when he was three. His US citizen parents did not adopt him in the US and did not obtain citizenship for him. Instead, they abused Adam and he was kicked out of his home at about age 16. He made the very unwise decision to break into their home and received a sentence of 25 months confinement for a theft offence. He later decided to get his citizenship. He found out that his green card had long since expired and that he need to apply for a new one in order to naturalize (get citizenship.) His fingerprints were taken in connection with his application for a replacement green card. The immigration authorities learned of his criminal conviction and came to his house unannounced and arrested him. He is scheduled to be deported to South Korea. Read about a change in the law which could impact here.

What a sad situation! Unfortunately, it is not uncommon. Many individuals have been adopted as infants, grow up with American families and have later been deported back to their home countries because their parents failed to adopt the child in the United States.

Children who are not the subject of a full and final decree of adoption overseas typically enter the United States as green card holders or lawful permanent residents.

Here’s a list of some of the things that can result in a green card holder being deported:

1. False claim to US citizenship (eg registering to vote or saying you are a citizen on your driver’s license application or school loan application.)
2. Committing a theft offence where you get a sentence of 12 months confinement, even if the entire sentence is served on probation (eg shoplifting.)
3. Certain assaults.
4. Certain drug offences.
5. Possessing, or carrying, or of attempting or conspiring to purchase, sell, offer for sale, exchange, use, own, possess, or carry, any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device.
6. Document fraud.

Now, it’s hard to imagine your sweet baby doing any of the things described above, much less getting a conviction but believe me its happens. I have represented many green card holders who are in removal proceedings. Here are some of the scenarios:

• Teenage siblings fighting in a waffle house over ketchup.
• Teenage siblings fighting over a remote control and a television show.
• A fight on a school bus.
• Teenager making fake ID to buy alcohol and then making additional fake ID’s for his friends who thought it was cool.
• Adult traveling in a car with someone who had a stolen firearm in the car.
• Teenager traveling in a car with someone who was transporting drugs.
• Teenager breaking into houses with his friends for fun.
• Teenager with two shoplifting convictions.

Thousands of adult green card holders are deported every single year for the reasons described above.
Here’s what I want you to know:

If you have adopted your child in the US, then your child is safe. Nobody is taking your baby away!

If your child entered the US as a green card holder, he or she becomes citizen by operation of law at the time of the adoption. The adoption itself is protection against future problems because the child becomes a citizen by operation of law at the time of the adoption.

I know, I know… just hired a primary provider, went through a home study, traveled overseas, were placed with a baby, went through a foreign court process, waited for a visa, and now you are finally home and you haven’t slept through the night for a month! You just want a break from courts, and lawyers and paperwork.

There are lots of good reasons to finish off this final step:

It’s good for your baby! Adoption creates a legal relationship between you and your child that does not exist without a full and final decree of adoption. Your child deserves this. Heaven forbid, if you were to die unexpectedly without doing the adoption, your child would not be considered to legally be your child, would not be a citizen and may not be eligible to inherit from you or get certain death benefits.

Money!-You can get the adoption tax credit!

Many primary providers will require you to continue with post placement visits until you finalize and you may be charged for these extra visits.
Travel! Many countries allow Americans to enter without a visa, but not citizens of other countries. The United States does not allow green card holders to be absent from the US for extended periods of time.

You may want to adopt again. Many home study providers may be reticent about approving a home study for someone who didn’t finalize their first adoption. Many primary providers may refuse to accept you as a client if you accepted a child into your family years ago and never finalized the adoption. It is so important to finalize your adoption in a timely manner that some primary providers consider it neglectful not to do so.

Upon adoption, your child becomes a citizen “by operation of law” (i.e. by magic!) You never need to take another step to prove your child is a citizen and the adoption decree itself is evidence. But just because you don’t have to, doesn’t mean that it is wise not to.

Upon adoption you will likely obtain a Birth Certificate issued by your state. You can also apply for a passport and a certificate of citizenship. I always advise people to obtain at least a passport. I think it’s a good idea to get a certificate of citizenship too. I’ll explain why. The two forms of evidence of citizenship that most everyone outside of the adoption community knows about are passports and certificates of citizenship. We live in an adoption bubble where everyone knows about home studies, visas, immigration medical exams, late registered birth certificates. Most people do not.

Passports expire, certificates of citizenship don’t. What are you going to do when your teenager needs evidence of citizenship right away and their passport has expired? Also consider this: as we have seen over the last election season, the world is indeed a crazy place. We never know when the passport rules will change and we won’t allow certain people from certain places to get passports.

People convicted of certain crimes may be denied a US passport. If your child makes poor choices later in life, he or she may or may not be able to obtain a passport as proof of citizenship.

Passports get lots all the time. They get washed in washing machines. They get stolen. A Certificate of Citizenship will sit in mom’s drawer indefinitely accumulating dust until the day that your child encounters an unhelpful bureaucrat who refuses to believe your child is a citizen. Alternatively, you could frame it for your child and memorialize this important step in their adoption journey.

The filing fee is a hefty $550. USCIS filing fees, like taxes, health insurance payments and rent only ever go up, never down. $550 is likely the cheapest this filing fee will ever be. Why not have another form of photo evidence on hand? It’s not strictly necessary but it won’t ever hurt to have a certificate of citizenship and it could help.