Sunday, April 18, 2010

Isn't Adoptee Returned to Russia a US Citizen?

I'm late on this -- but ABC reporters Kari Pricher, Michael S. James and Sarah Netter had a long piece a few days ago on the Russian boy sent back to Moscow by his adopted American mother. (Average Little Boy' or Menace? Flight Attendant Describes Adoptee Returned to Russia | April 10, 2010).

Part of the report says that the boy had a US passport:

"The family had paid a driver $200 to meet the boy at the airport and take him to the Ministry of Education, officials said. Once there, officials found his U.S. passport, adoption documentation and Hansen's letter in his backpack."

Another part of the report says that the boy had an "expired US visa:"

"Adopted six months ago, the boy was traveling on an expired U.S. visa. He was taken to a hospital for a medical evaluation. Video footage showed Artyem looking bewildered as he is taken from the police station to the hospital by Russian social service workers. "

The boy, Justin Artem Hansen, could not have been traveling with an expired US visa and a US passport at the same time. For one thing, US citizens cannot be issued US visas. If the boy was traveling on a Russian passport with expired US visa, that certainly is not a requirement for traveling back to Moscow, so why was that even relevant in this story?

The question that none of the reporters had asked is quite simple -- isn't this adoptee an American citizen?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of American citizens to acquire American citizenship automatically. These children did not acquire American citizenship at birth, but they are granted citizenship when they enter the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPRs).

What Are the Requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000?

The child must meet the following requirements:

    * Have at least one American citizen parent by birth or naturalization;
    * Be under 18 years of age;
    * Live in the legal and physical custody of the American citizen parent; and
    * Be admitted as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.

In addition, if the child is adopted, the adoption must be full and final.

Child would not have been issued a visa by the embassy without a final adoption decree.

Read more here.

The State Department's Russia Country Information on Adoption is also here.

On a related note, US Ambassador to Moscow, John Beyrle has released a statement on Justin Artem Hansen:

"As parents, my wife and I were deeply shocked by the news of Justin Artem Hansen, and very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted.  We are now investigating the circumstances of the boy's return to see if any crimes were committed.  We are also in close contact with the Russian government on all aspects of the case, and we know that he is being well cared for.  Right now, that is the main thing.

Of course, there are tens of thousands of adopted Russian children who are living happily and lovingly with their American families.  We often hear from some of them after cases of neglect like this are publicized -- they ask us to remind people that these things are rare. But even one incident like this is too many, and we will get to the bottom of what went wrong."

There is also a clip in YouTube with Ambassador Beryle in Russian (subtitled in English) and he has blogged about it here (one of the most popular items in his blog with 54 comments and counting; wish I could read Russian). So now -- if the boy is an AmCit and is legally one of ours, who will be responsible for him? Even as a dual-national, the US Mission in Russia would still have an obligation to monitor his welfare and whereabouts.  Unless, he renounces his US citizenship, but since he is a minor .... oh, this could be quite a legal minefield...

As an aside -- this is not the first time that a US citizen had been expatriated out of the United States, although under different circumstances.  But this may be one of the few cases involving a minor. For other forced expatriation, see this case of an American citizen sent off to Mexico by DHS, who ended up in Honduras-Nicaragua-Guatemala before he was reportedly returned to the US by US Embassy Guatemala. Only to be jailed again for reentering after deportation. By DHS. Despite his possession of a real US passport.  A quite horrifying story.  

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