In the early 2000s I started to follow adoptee deportations. Back then, it was John Galt off to Thailand and a handful of other cases. It was weird and scary and made no sense. These international adoptees had been adopted by Americans, brought to the US, and had lived the life of American citizens only to learn decades later that their naturalization had never been filed or finalized, No one had bothered to tell them until it was too late, and they were thrown on a slow plane to wherever they came from. Some had a history of abuse; some of re-homing. Deportation was simply another adoption system betrayal
Since then, this form of state-sponsored adoptee abuse has grown. No one knows how many adoptees have been deported from the US because ICE, courts, and the State Department don’t track that specific information. In fact, as far as I know, the US, where every bean is counted, maintains no statistics on international adoptees ((much less domestic product) who are abused or murdered by their American adopters. When Russian adoptee Ivan Skorobogatov/Nathaniel Craver, 7, was murdered by his adopters in 2009 authorities didn’t even know he was a transnational adoptee until Russian government reps showed up in person knocking on the door with serious questions.
Adoption Remembrance Day 2020
Last Friday I Zoom-attended the Adoptee Remembrance Day Vigil sponsored by Adoptees for Justice. The vigil was held as a collective mourning and memorial for adoptees who didn’t make it: the abused, the mentally ill, the murdered, the suicides, the deported. I am glad I attended. This vigil is probably the most moving, sad, and powerful testimony regarding the “less than” adoptee experience, that I have ever seen. I pretty much stopped crying about 30 years ago, but this brought up the tears.
I tried to post the actual video here, but I can’t find an embed code on Facebook. You can watch it here.
I also want to point you to Moses Farrow’s powerful testimony posted on Facebook, a remembrance of his own three adopted siblings who committed suicide. Three.
Adoptee Deportation and Adoption Ideology
Deportation was certainly not the entire focus of Adoptee Remembrance Day and vigil, but the sisters and brothers we’ve lost to deportation played large in the vigil and performances. This is what I want to write about for a few minutes.
Adoptee citizenship activists say about 50 international adoptees whose adoptions happened before the cut-off date for citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which granted citizenship to younger adoptees, have been deported, but believe the number is much higher, Anywhere between 15,000-35,000 international adoptees in the US today, in fact, are in danger of deportation because their adoptive parents, adoption agencies, or US immigration apparatchiks, individually or collectively, didn’t do their job and follow through on the naturalization process for adoptees that was in place when the arrived here.
The vigil brought one thing home to me: Adoption is how adoptees live abstracted lives without context, beginnings, endings, or agency. The rules are made and played by patriarchy, church, and state with all their subsidiary isms, ideologies, and agendas. For the first time, viewing the vigil performances, I seriously considered–felt--what it is really like to be sent away, first via shuttling us down the adoption chute—then through a second shuttle through the state. Adoption is analogous to deportation. To exile. No matter what happens later, we never really have a home we can go home to–and certainly not by state force. No home is ever forever.
State-sponsored adoptee abuse by deportation is nothing more than unregulated re-homing that mimics the original adoption process. Adoptee deportees are sent packing—just as they were to the US as children– to their countries of origin where they have no ties, no known families (usually), and no linguistic and cultural familiarity. In most cases, those origin countries don’t want anything to do with them and resources for assistance are scarce.
Deportation strips adoptees of their US citizenship, their rights, their contextural identities, legal families—even their names, just as their adoptions did. Jess Mustanich, deported to El Salvador in 2008, was reinvented as Alfaro, his birthmother’s last-known surname. His adoptive father, who for years banged his head on an INS brick wall to get Jess naturalized says,
I think what the government has tried to do is strip him of his American Anglo identity, I think they have taken Mustanich away because they don’t want a Mustanich being deported to El Salvador. What a horrible thing it would look like if he turned up dead.
Victims of state-sponsored adoptee abuse by deportation, often end up homeless, or in jail; abused or dead through suicide or murder. We can’t let this continue.
Adoptee Citizenship Act 2019-2020
Adoptees for Justice is doing a bang-up job in promoting and lobbying for passage of the Adoptee Citizenship Act, 2019-2020, that amends the 2020 law that granted automatic citizenship to those adopted on or after February 27, 1983. I’ve participated in two of their virtual lobbying days. A4J is politically savvy and smart, and they know how to use the Internet to get things done. They’ve made it really easy to participate, rewarding, and even fun to get this bill passed. A4Js next cyber event is a Twitter Chat on November 9, 2020: #WorldAdopteeDay
Here are sources for more information on adoptee deportation and Citizenship