The Adoptee Rights Campaign estimates that between 1945 and 2018, U.S. families adopted some 500,000 children from abroad. According to Eleana Kim and Kim Park Nelson, the rules governing many of these adoptees’ citizenship (determined by immigration law) versus their kinship (governed by family law) have remained at odds. Children could enter the United States on virtually any visa and become officially adopted yet remain noncitizens; it was incumbent on their parents to successfully apply for adjustment of status before they turned 18. Only later — often decades later, after trying to vote or applying for student financial aid or getting arrested — would an adoptee learn that he or she had an expired visa or green card.

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