The Child Citizenship Act and the Family Reunification Act: Valuing the Citizen Child as Well as the Citizen Parent

01 January 2003

Leading civil rights advocates today lament the degree to which current immigration law fails to maintain family unity. The recent passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is a rare bipartisan step in the right direction because it grants automatic citizenship to foreign-born children of U.S. citizens upon receipt of their permanent resident status and finalization of their adoption. Congress now has before it the Family Reunification Act of 2001, which aims to restore certain procedural safeguards relaxed in 1996 to ensure that foreign-born parents are not summarily separated from their children, many of whom may be U.S. citizens. Because it usually takes both children and parents to create a family, my hope is that Congress will look just as favorably upon the seemingly more complex, but actually less extraordinary, measures suggested in the Family Reunification Act as it did with the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. My fear, however, is that despite its promised gains, embedded within the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 are assumptions that will make passage of key parts of the Family Reunification Act difficult if not impossible. One of these assumptions is that criminal adult legal permanent residents (LPRs) are presumptively deportable unless they happen to be a citizen's adopted child.