Foreign-born children adopted by Americans should be citizens

That's not necessarily the case for those adopted prior to 2000. A 38-year-old Tacoma woman facing deportation is an example.

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All foreign-born children who are adopted as babies or toddlers by Americans and grow up in the U.S. should be citizens.

Yet, they aren't.

And that painful reality means a 38-year-old Tacoma woman, who was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was five months old, is scheduled to be deported to a country where she doesn't know a soul and she can't speak the language.

A federal immigration judge this week ordered Tara Ammons Cohen be sent back to Mexico.

Immigration laws do not recognize adoption as a special circumstance in deportations. The law is the law, according to the judge. In that regard, the ruling is correct.

But common sense -- and common decency -- are being ignored.

Under federal law, Cohen -- married to a U.S. citizen and a mother of three -- is not a U.S. citizen and never was because her American parents didn't take care of the paperwork to make her a citizen when they adopted her as an infant.

Cohen's adoptive mother told the Tacoma News Tribune she was told that the three children she adopted from Mexico would automatically become U.S. citizens.

Cohen became aware she was not a U.S. citizen only eight years ago. She resisted getting a Green Card because she was married to an American and, she later conceded, she was being prideful and stubborn.

Unfortunately, Cohen ran afoul of the law in 2007. She pleaded guilty to theft and drug trafficking for stealing a purse that contained two bottles of prescription pills. Her punishment was a year and a day in prison -- and deportation.

The immigration judge did agree that Cohen's crime was not serious enough to warrant deportation. Nevertheless, she is in the country illegally so she still must be deported.

She came here as a baby as part of a legal adoption. Sure, her parents made a mistake in not doing the proper paperwork, but it's not as if she willfully broke the law.

This is a problem that is clearly in need of a solution. Congress changed the law about a decade ago, automatically bestowing U.S. citizenship on adopted children. But the law does not apply retroactively, so those adopted prior to 2000 can be deported.

"There are literally thousands of internationally adopted children who have been legally adopted but they do not have U.S. citizenship due to steps not taken by adopted parents, neglect or lack of understanding what to do," Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption said earlier this year.

It's clear further action is needed.

The Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act has been proposed. It needs to be approved.

Those who spent their childhood in the United States as the legal son or daughter of citizens should be retroactively considered U.S. citizens.

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