S. 1934 Intercountry Adoption Reform Act - Introductory Statement Sen. Nickles et. al.
By Mr. NICKLES (for himself, Ms. LANDRIEU, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. INHOFE, and Mr. SMITH):
S. 1934. A bill to establish an Office of Intercountry Adoptions within the Department of State, and to reform United States laws governing intercountry adoptions; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. NICKLES. Mr. President, today on National Adoption Day, I rise to introduce the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act along with my colleagues Senators LANDRIEU, CRAIG, BINGAMAN, INHOFE and SMITH. The primary focus of this bill is to streamline, simplify and improve the foreign adoption process for families, adoption agencies and more importantly for the foreign adopted children of American citizens.
In the last decade, there has been a significant growth in intercountry adoption. In 1990, Americans adopted more than 7,000 children from abroad. In 2002, Americans adopted almost 20,000 children from abroad. Families are increasingly seeking to create or enlarge their families through intercountry adoptions. There are many children worldwide who are without permanent homes. It is the intent of this bill to make much-needed reforms to the intercountry adoption process used by U.S. citizens and therefore help more homeless children worldwide find a permanent home here in the United States.
There are two main goals of this legislation. First, and more importantly, this bill acknowledges and affirms that foreign adopted children of American citizens are to be treated in all respects the same as children born abroad to an American citizen. Under existing law, foreign adopted children are treated as immigrants to the United States. They have to apply for, and be granted immigrant visas to enter the United States. Once they enter the United States, citizenship is acquired automatically. Had these children been born abroad to American citizens, they would have traveled back to the United States with a U.S. passport and entered as citizens. This bill provides for equal treatment for foreign adopted children.
Furthermore, these children are not immigrating to the United States in the traditional sense of the word. They are not choosing to come to our country, but rather American citizens are choosing to bring them here as part of their families. Once a full and final adoption has occurred, then the adopted child is a full-fledged member of the family and under adoption law is considered as if ``natural born.'' As a child of an American citizen, the foreign adopted child should be treated as such, not as an immigrant.
The second goal is to consolidate the existing functions of the Federal Government relating to foreign adoption into one centralized office located within the Department of State. Currently, these functions are performed by offices within the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. Consolidation of these functions into one office will result in focused attention on the needs of families seeking to adopt overseas and on the children they are hoping to make part of their families.
Today, when a family seeks to adopt overseas, it has to first be approved to adopt by the Department of Homeland Security. Then, after a child has been chosen, the Department of Homeland Security has to determine if the child is adoptable under Federal adoption law. After this determination is made, the Department of State has to determine whether the child qualifies for a visa as an immediate relative of an American citizen. This bill seeks to minimize the paperwork involved and streamline the process by having these functions all performed in one, centralized office, the Office of Intercountry Adoptions, staffed by expert personnel trained in adoption practices.
The focus of this office will be on foreign adoptions and only on foreign adoptions. Officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State that currently perform the functions being transferred to this new office have many other duties, such as screening for terrorists or dealing with illegal immigrants. Adoption is frequently a low priority on the desk of such officers. By consolidating these functions into one office, with its sole focus being foreign adoption, these issues can be handled more promptly and given the priority they deserve.
Another aspect of the Office of Intercountry Adoptions that I consider extremely important is the proactive role that we intend for it to take in assisting other countries in establishing fraud-free, transparent adoption practices and interceding on behalf of American citizens when foreign adoption issues occur. By establishing an Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoption, this legislation will provide a point of contact for foreign governments when issues involving foreign adoptions arise.
In the last few years there have been many examples of instances where our government has had to intercede on behalf of Americans seeking to adopt a foreign child. For example, Romania has been closed to foreign adoption for more than 2 years now. When Romania issued its moratorium on foreign adoption, hundreds of American families who were in the process of adopting Romanian orphans were unable to complete their adoptions. Fortunately, the Department of State was able to work successfully with the Romanian government to have these adoptions processed and persuaded Romania to grant exceptions to the moratorium for these American families and their adopted. Unfortunately, the moratorium is still in place leaving many orphans stuck in orphanages across Romania.
There also have been major adoption issues involving Cambodia, Vietnam, and Guatemala in the last 2 years. These issues are still being addressed by various officials within the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security. It will be greatly beneficial to have a point person within the Federal Government to work on these issues, facilitate resolutions, and intercede on behalf of American families.
There also are some very significant procedural changes in the foreign adoption process included in this bill. Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, a foreign child adopted by a U.S. citizen acquires automatic citizenship upon entry into the United States to reside permanently. This bill proposes to change the point of acquisition of citizenship from entry into the United States to the time when a full and final adoption decree is entered by a foreign government or a court in the United States. Prior to citizenship attaching, the child must be determined to be an ``adoption child'' under U.S. law as defined in this bill. This provision is made retroactive to January 1, 1950, the year Americans began to adopt from abroad. This date also addresses the issue of children adopted during this time period whose parents failed to naturalize them under previous law.
Additionally, the Secretary of State shall issue a U.S. passport and a Consular Report of Birth for a child who satisfies the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act as amended by this Act. No visa will be required for such a child; instead it will be admitted to the United States upon presentation of a valid U.S. passport. No affidavit of support under 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act will be required nor will the child be required to undergo a medical exam. These changes are again made to more closely equate the process of bringing a foreign adopted child home to the process of documenting and bringing home a biological child born abroad to a U.S. citizen.
When a U.S. citizen gives birth abroad, the parents simply go to the U.S. Embassy, present the child's birth certificate, their marriage license and proof of U.S. citizenship. Upon receiving this documentation, the embassy provides the parents with a U.S. passport for the child and a Consular Report of Birth that serves as proof of their child's citizenship as well as the child's birth certificate. This process takes little to no time to complete.
The process for foreign adopted children, however, is anything but quick and easy. Currently, an adoptive family may have to travel from the country where it adopts a child to another country in order to get the child's immigrant visa. Only certain embassies are able to grant such visas. On the other hand, most embassies are equipped to provide passports and Consular Reports of Birth. This will eliminate the need and expense associated with families having to travel with their newly adopted children to another U.S. Embassy in a different location prior to bringing the children home.
This bill also provides that the adoptive parents do not have to prove twice that they are financially capable of providing for their child and eliminates the immigration requirement of having the child undergo a medical exam. Before a family is approved to adopt a foreign child, the Federal Government has to be satisfied that the family is financially able to care for the child. This is part of the approval process. They should not have to repeat this process once they have fully and finally adopted a child.
In addition, prior to a family choosing to adopt a child, they should acquire and be provided as much medical information as is available on the health of the child so that it can make an informed decision on its ability to care for the child. Once that information has been provided and the child has been adopted, the child is now a member of the family. No biological child is denied entry because of medical reasons, nor should an adopted child be denied.
Another section of this bill provides for a new type of visa for children traveling to the United States for the purpose of being adopted by an American citizen who has been
approved to adopt. Currently children who are not adopted overseas prior to their entry into the United States are allowed entry using an immigrant visa. As I have stated earlier, these children are not immigrants. They are being brought to the United States, at the request of a U.S. citizen, to become a member of that family. This new visa is a non-immigrant visa which authorizes admission of the child for the purposes of adoption. The authorized admission under this section terminates on the date the adoption is finalized, or 2 years after the date of admission if the adoption has not been finalized. Until the child is adopted, the child will receive temporary treatment as a legal permanent resident.
This bill also redefines the criteria used to determine a child's eligibility for adoption This is a critical piece of this legislation. The existing statutory language has not been revised since it was first written over 50 years ago. When it was written it was intended to deal primarily with war orphans and it does not permit voluntary relinquishment of children who have two living parents. The provision in this bill has been written to more fully comport with the language as agreed to in the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 which does permit the adoption of children whose parents have irrevocably relinquished them.
The bill also includes many safeguards such as: requirements that the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proper care will be furnished the child; that the purpose of the adoption is to form a bona fide parent-child relationship; that the biological parent-child relationships have been terminated; that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is satisfied that the child is not a security risk; and that whose adoption and emigration to the United States has been approved by the competent authority of the country of the child's place of birth or residence.
Now that I have covered some of the significant aspects of this bill, let me tell you what this bill does not do. It does not create more bureaucracy or additional regulation. It does not increase fees for adoption. It does not slow down the adoption process. It does not add more red tape or additional paperwork. In fact, it does just the opposite.
It consolidates existing Federal processes for foreign adoptions into what is intended to be a ``one stop shop''--the Office of Intercountry Adoptions. It eliminates paperwork involved in getting an immigrant visa and provides citizenship documentation up front for the child, saving the adoptive family from having to deal with this upon its return home. Instead the fully and finally adopted child enters the United States on a U.S. passport as a U.S. citizen and child of a U.S. citizen.
This bill is intended to ease the paperwork burden on adoptive parents who have already gone through extensive paperwork and documentation production to accomplish their adoption. It is intended to recognize that children adopted by American citizens are the children of American citizens and entitled to all the same rights, duties and responsibilities of biological children of U.S. citizens born abroad.
I introduce this bill with the hope that its passage will significantly improve the foreign adoption process so that more children worldwide can find loving, permanent homes. It is my prayer that someday, adoption will not be needed. That all children will be born into stable, loving homes to parents who want them and are able to care for them. However, until that day comes the foreign adoption process can be improved and should be improved. Foreign adopted children should be treated as children of U.S. citizens, not as immigrants, and should be accorded all the same rights as biological children of U.S. citizens. To that end, I introduce this bill.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2003'' or the ``ICARE Act''.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS; PURPOSES.
(a) FINDINGS.--Congress finds the following:
(1) That a child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.
(2) That intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her country of origin.
(3) There has been a significant growth in intercountry adoptions. In 1990, Americans adopted 7,093 children from abroad. In 2001, they adopted 19,237 children from abroad.
(4) Americans increasingly seek to create or enlarge their families through intercountry adoptions.
(5) There are many children worldwide that are without permanent homes.
(6) In the interest of United States citizens and homeless children, reforms are needed in the intercountry adoption process used by United States citizens.
(7) In addition, Congress recognizes that foreign born adopted children do not make the decision whether to immigrate to the United States. They are being chosen by Americans to become part of their immediate families.
(8) As such these children should not be classified as immigrants in the traditional sense. Once fully and finally adopted, they should be treated as children of United States citizens.
(9) Since a child who is fully and finally adopted is entitled to the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as a biological child, the law should reflect such equality.
(10) Therefore, foreign born adopted children of United States citizens should be accorded the same procedural treatment as biological children born abroad to a United States citizen.
(11) If a United States citizen can confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then the same citizen is entitled to confer such citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign born children immediately upon final adoption.
(12) If a United States citizen cannot confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then such citizen cannot confer citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign born child, except through the naturalization process.
(b) PURPOSES.--The purposes of this Act are--
(1) to ensure that foreign born children adopted by United States citizens will be treated identically to a biological child born abroad to the same citizen parent;
(2) to improve the intercountry adoption process to make it more citizen friendly and child oriented; and
(3) to foster best practices.
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) ADOPTABLE CHILD.--The term ``adoptable child'' has the same meaning given such term in section 101(c)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)(3)), as added by section 204(a) of this Act.
(2) AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--The term ``Ambassador at Large'' means the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions appointed to head the Office pursuant to section 101(b).
(3) FULL AND FINAL ADOPTION.--The term ``full and final adoption'' means an adoption--
(A) that is completed according to the laws of the child's country of origin or the State law of the parent's residence;
(B) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;
(C) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;
(D) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section 205; and
(E) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section 206.
(4) OFFICE.--The term ``Office'' means the Office of Intercountry Adoptions established under section 101(a).
(5) READILY APPROVABLE.--A petition or certification is considered ``readily approvable'' if the documentary support provided demonstrates that the petitioner satisfies the eligibility requirements and no additional information or investigation is necessary.
SEC. 101. OFFICE OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS.
(a) ESTABLISHMENT.--There is established within the Department of State, an Office of Intercountry Adoptions which shall be headed by the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions who shall be appointed pursuant to subsection (b).
(b) AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--
(1) APPOINTMENT.--The Ambassador at Large shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among individuals who have background, experience, and training in intercountry adoptions.
(2) AUTHORITY.--The Ambassador at Large shall report directly to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs.
(3) DUTIES OF THE AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--In carrying out the functions of the Office, the Ambassador at Large shall have the following responsibilities:
(A) IN GENERAL.--The primary responsibilities of the Ambassador at Large shall be--
(i) to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child; and
(ii) to assist the Secretary of State in fulfilling the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.).
(B) ADVISORY ROLE.--The Ambassador at Large shall be a principal advisor to the President and the Secretary of State regarding matters affecting intercountry adoption and the general welfare of children abroad and shall make recommendations regarding--
(i) the policies of the United States with respect to the establishment of a system of cooperation among the parties to The Hague Convention;
(ii) the policies to prevent abandonment, strengthen families, and to advance the placement of children in permanent families; and
(iii) policies that promote the well-being of children.
(C) DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION.--Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, the Ambassador at Large may represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to international adoption in--
(i) fulfillment of the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.);
(ii) contacts with foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, and specialized agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations of which the United States is a member; and
(iii) multilateral conferences and meetings relevant to international adoption.
(D) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENT.--To advise and support the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.
(E) REPORTING RESPONSIBILITIES.--The Ambassador at Large shall have the following reporting responsibilities:
(i) IN GENERAL.--The Ambassador at Large shall assist the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus in preparing those portions of the Human Rights Reports that relate to the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children.
(ii) ANNUAL REPORT ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION.--On September 1 of each year, the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Ambassador at Large, shall prepare and transmit to Congress an annual report on intercountry adoption. Each annual report shall include--
(I) a description of the status of child protection and adoption in each foreign country, including--
(aa) trends toward improvement in the welfare and protection of children and families;
(bb) trends in family reunification, domestic adoption, and intercountry adoption;
(cc) movement toward ratification and implementation of The Hague Convention; and
(dd) census information on the number of children in orphanages, foster homes, and other types of nonpermanent residential care;
(II) the number of intercountry adoptions by United States citizens, regardless of whether the adoption occurred under The Hague Convention, including the country from which each child emigrated, the State in which each child resides, and the country in which the adoption was finalized;
(III) the number of intercountry adoptions involving emigration from the United States, regardless of whether the adoption occurred under The Hague Convention, including the country where each child now resides and the State from which each child emigrated;
(IV) the number of Hague Convention placements for adoption in the United States that were disrupted, including the country from which the child emigrated, the age of the child, the date of the placement for adoption, the reasons for the disruption, the resolution of the disruption, the agencies that handled the placement for adoption, and the plans for the child, and in addition, any information regarding disruption or dissolution of adoptions of children from other countries received pursuant to section 422(b)(4) of the Social Security Act;
(V) the average time required for completion of an adoption, set forth by the country from which the child emigrated;
(VI) the current list of agencies accredited and persons approved under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.) to provide adoption services;
(VII) the names of the agencies and persons temporarily or permanently debarred under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.), and the reasons for the debarment;
(VIII) the range of adoption fees charged in connection with Hague Convention adoptions involving adoptions by United States citizens and the median of such fees set forth by the country of origin;
(IX) the range of fees charged for accreditation of agencies and the approval of persons in the United States engaged in providing adoption services under The Hague Convention; and
(X) recommendations of ways the United States might act to improve the welfare and protection of children and families in each foreign country.
(c) FUNCTIONS OF OFFICE.--The Office shall have the following 6 functions:
(1) APPROVAL OF A FAMILY TO ADOPT.--To approve or disapprove the eligibility of United States citizens to adopt foreign born children.
(2) CHILD ADJUDICATION.--To adjudicate the status of a child born abroad as an adoptable child.
(3) FAMILY SERVICES.--To provide assistance to United States citizens engaged in the intercountry adoption process in resolving problems with respect to that process and to track intercountry adoption cases so as to ensure that all such adoptions are processed in a timely manner.
(4) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENT.--To advise and support the Ambassador at Large and other relevant Bureaus in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.
(5) CENTRAL AUTHORITY.--To assist the Secretary of State in carrying out duties of the central authority as defined in section 3 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14902).
(6) ADMINISTRATION.--To perform administrative functions related to the functions performed under paragraphs (1) through (5), including legal functions and congressional liaison and public affairs functions.
(1) IN GENERAL.--All functions of the Office shall be performed by officers housed in a centralized office located in Washington, D.C. Within the Washington, D.C., office, there shall be 6 divisions corresponding to the 6 functions of the Office. All 6 divisions and their respective directors shall report directly to the Ambassador at Large.
(2) APPROVAL TO ADOPT.--The division responsible for approving parents to adopt shall be divided into regions of the United States as follows:
(3) CHILD ADJUDICATION.--To the extent practicable, the division responsible for the adjudication of foreign born children as adoptable shall be divided by world regions which correspond to those currently used by other divisions within the Department of State.
(4) USE OF INTERNATIONAL FIELD OFFICERS.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of international field officers posted abroad, as necessary, to fulfill the requirements of this Act.
(e) QUALIFICATIONS AND TRAINING.--In addition to meeting the employment requirements of the Department of State, officers employed in any of the 6 divisions of the Office shall undergo extensive and specialized training in the laws and processes of intercountry adoption as well as understanding the cultural, medical, emotional, and social issues surrounding intercountry adoption and adoptive families. The Ambassador at Large shall, whenever possible, recruit and hire individuals with background and experience in intercountry adoptions.
(f) USE OF ELECTRONIC DATABASES AND FILING.--To the extent possible, the Office shall make use of centralized, electronic databases and electronic form filing.
SEC. 102. RECOGNITION OF CONVENTION ADOPTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES.
Section 505(a)(1) of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 note) is amended by inserting ``301, 302,'' after ``205,''.
SEC. 103. TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT.
Section 104 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14914) is repealed.
SEC. 111. TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS.
(a) IN GENERAL.--All functions under the immigration laws of the United States with respect to the adoption of foreign born children by United States citizens and their admission to the United States that have been vested by statute in, or exercised by, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (or any officer, employee, or component thereof), of the Department of Homeland Security (or any officer, employee, or component thereof) immediately prior to the effective date of this title, are transferred to the Office on such effective date for exercise by the Ambassador at Large in accordance with applicable laws and title II of this Act.
(b) EXERCISE OF AUTHORITIES.--Except as otherwise provided by law, the Ambassador at Large may, for purposes of performing any function transferred to the Ambassador at Large under subsection (a), exercise all authorities under any other provision of law that were available with respect to the performance of that function to the official responsible for the performance of the function immediately before the effective date of the transfer of the function pursuant to this title.
SEC. 112. TRANSFER OF RESOURCES.
Subject to section 1531 of title 31, United States Code, upon the effective date of this title, there are transferred to the Ambassador at Large for appropriate allocation in accordance with section 115, the assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balance of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds employed, held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available to the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the functions transferred pursuant to this title.
SEC. 113. INCIDENTAL TRANSFERS.
The Ambassador at Large may make such additional incidental dispositions of personnel, assets, liabilities, grants, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available in connection with such functions, as may be necessary to carry out this title. The Ambassador at Large shall provide for such further measures and dispositions as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this title.
SEC. 114. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.
(a) LEGAL DOCUMENTS.--All orders, determinations, rules, regulations, permits, grants, loans, contracts, agreements, including collective bargaining agreements, certificates, licenses, and privileges--
(1) that have been issued, made, granted, or allowed to become effective by the President, the Ambassador at Large, the former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, their delegates, or any other Government official, or by a court of competent jurisdiction, in the performance of any function that is transferred pursuant to this title; and
(2) that are in effect on the effective date of such transfer (or become effective after such date pursuant to their terms as in effect on such effective date);
shall continue in effect according to their terms until modified, terminated, superseded, set aside, or revoked in accordance with law by the President, any other authorized official, a court of competent jurisdiction, or operation of law, except that any collective bargaining agreement shall remain in effect until the date of termination specified in the agreement.
(1) PENDING.--The transfer of functions under section 111 shall not affect any proceeding or any application for any benefit, service, license, permit, certificate, or financial assistance pending on the effective date of this title before an office whose functions are transferred pursuant to this title, but such proceedings and applications shall be continued.
(2) ORDERS.--Orders shall be issued in such proceedings, appeals shall be taken therefrom, and payments shall be made pursuant to such orders, as if this Act had not been enacted, and orders issued in any such proceeding shall continue in effect until modified, terminated, superseded, or revoked by a duly authorized official, by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by operation of law.
(3) DISCONTINUANCE OR MODIFICATION.--Nothing in this section shall be considered to prohibit the discontinuance or modification of any such proceeding under the same terms and conditions and to the same extent that such proceeding could have been discontinued or modified if this section had not been enacted.
(c) SUITS.--This title shall not affect suits commenced before the effective date of this title, and in all such suits, proceeding shall be had, appeals taken, and judgments rendered in the same manner and with the same effect as if this title had not been enacted.
(d) NONABATEMENT OF ACTIONS.--No suit, action, or other proceeding commenced by or against the Department of State, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the Department of Homeland Security, or by or against any individual in the official capacity of such individual as an officer or employee in connection with a function transferred pursuant to this section, shall abate by reason of the enactment of this Act.
(e) CONTINUANCE OF SUIT WITH SUBSTITUTION OF PARTIES.--If any Government officer in the official capacity of such officer is party to a suit with respect to a function of the officer, and pursuant to this title such function is transferred to any other officer or office, then such suit shall be continued with the other officer or the head of such other office, as applicable, substituted or added as a party.
(f) ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE AND JUDICIAL REVIEW.--Except as otherwise provided by this title, any statutory requirements relating to notice, hearings, action upon the record, or administrative or judicial review that apply to any function transferred pursuant to any provision of this title shall apply to the exercise of such function by the head of the office, and other officers of the office, to which such function is transferred pursuant to such provision.
SEC. 121. EFFECTIVE DATE.
This title shall take effect 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
SEC. 201. AUTOMATIC ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
(a) AMENDMENTS OF AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP PROVISIONS.--Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431) is amended--
(1) by amending the section heading to read as follows: ``CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES; CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH CITIZENSHIP AUTOMATICALLY ACQUIRED''; and
(2) in subsection (a), by striking paragraphs (1) through (3) and inserting the following:
``(1) Upon the date the adoption becomes full and final, at least 1 parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, who has been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than 5 years, at least 2 of which were after attaining the age of 14 years. Any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288) by such citizen parent, or any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present abroad as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person--
``(A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States; or
``(B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288);
may be included in order to satisfy the physical presence requirement of this paragraph.
``(2) The child is an adoptable child described in section 101(c)(3).
``(3) The child is the beneficiary of a full and final adoption decree entered by a foreign government or a court in the United States.
``(4) For purposes of this subsection, the term ``full and final adoption'' means an adoption--
``(A) that is completed under the laws of the child's country of origin or the State law of the parent's residence;
``(B) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;
``(C) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;
``(D) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section 205 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act; and
``(E) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section 206 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act.''.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.--This section shall take effect as if enacted on January 1, 1950.
SEC. 202. REVISED PROCEDURES.
(a) IN GENERAL.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following requirements shall apply with respect to the adoption of foreign born children by United States citizens:
(1) Upon completion of a full and final adoption, the Secretary of State shall issue a United States passport and a Consular Report of Birth for a child who satisfies the requirements of section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431), as amended by section 201 of this Act, upon application by a United States citizen parent.
(2) An adopted child described in paragraph (1) shall not require the issuance of a visa for travel and admission to the United States but shall be admitted to the United States upon presentation of a valid, unexpired United States passport.
(3) No affidavit of support under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1183a) shall be required in the case of any adoptable child.
(4) The Secretary of State shall not require an adopted child described in paragraph (1) to undergo a medical exam.
(b) REGULATIONS.--Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this section.
SEC. 203. NONIMMIGRANT VISAS FOR CHILDREN TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES TO BE ADOPTED BY A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.
(a) IN GENERAL.--Section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)) is amended--
(1) by striking ``or'' at the end of subparagraph (U);
(2) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (V) and inserting ``; or''; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
``(W) an adoptable child who is coming into the United States for adoption by a United States citizen and a spouse jointly or by an unmarried United States citizen at least 25 years of age, who has been approved to adopt by the Ambassador at Large, acting through the Office of Intercountry Adoptions established under section 101(a) of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act.''.
(b) TERMINATION OF PERIOD OF AUTHORIZED ADMISSION.--Section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(q) In the case of a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W), the period of authorized admission shall terminate on the earlier of--
``(1) the date on which the adoption of the nonimmigrant is completed by the courts of the State where the parents reside; or
``(2) the date that is 2 years after the date of admission of the nonimmigrant into the United States.''.
(c) TEMPORARY TREATMENT AS LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENT.--Notwithstanding any other law, all benefits and protections that apply to a legal permanent resident shall apply to a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by subsection (a), pending a full and final adoption.
(d) EXCEPTION FROM IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENT FOR CERTAIN ADOPTED CHILDREN.--Section 212(a)(1)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(1)(C)) is amended--
(1) in the heading by striking ``10 YEARS'' and inserting ``18 YEARS''; and
(2) in clause (i), by striking ``10 years'' and inserting ``18 years''.
(e) REGULATIONS.--Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this section.
SEC. 204. DEFINITION OF ``ADOPTABLE CHILD''.
(a) IN GENERAL.--Section 101(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(3) The term ``adoptable child'' means an unmarried person under the age of 18--
``(A) whose biological parents (or parent, in the case of a child who has one sole or surviving parent) or other persons or institutions that retain legal custody of the child--
``(i) have freely given their written irrevocable consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child, and to the child's emigration and adoption;
``(ii) are unable to provide proper care for the child, as determined by the appropriate governmental authority of the child's residence; or
``(iii) have voluntarily relinquished the child to governmental authorities pursuant to the law of the child's residence;
``(B) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proper care will be furnished the child if admitted to the United States;
``(C) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the purpose of the adoption is to form a bona fide parent-child relationship and that the parent-child relationship of the child and the biological parents has been terminated (and in carrying out both obligations under this subparagraph the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may consider whether there is a petition pending to confer immigrant status on one or both of the biological parents);
``(D) with respect to whom the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is satisfied that the person is not a security risk; and
``(E) whose adoption and emigration to the United States has been approved by the competent authority of the country of the child's place of birth or residence.''.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.--Section 204(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1154(d)) is amended by inserting ``and an adoptable child as defined in section 101(c)(3)'' before ``unless a valid home-study''.
SEC. 205. APPROVAL TO ADOPT.
(a) IN GENERAL.--Prior to the issuance of a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 203(a) of this Act, or the issuance of a full and final adoption decree, the United States citizen adoptive parent shall have approved by the Office a petition to adopt. Such petition shall be subject to the same terms and conditions as are applicable to petitions for classification under section 204.3 of title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act.
(b) EXPIRATION OF APPROVAL.--Approval to adopt under this Act is valid for 24 months from the date of approval.
(c) EXPEDITED REAPPROVAL PROCESS OF FAMILIES PREVIOUSLY APPROVED TO ADOPT.--The Ambassador at Large shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to provide for an expedited and streamlined process for families who have been previously approved to adopt and whose approval has expired, so long as not more than 3 years have lapsed since the original application.
(d) DENIAL OF PETITION.--
(1) NOTICE OF INTENT.--If the officer adjudicating the petition to adopt finds that it is not readily approvable, the officer shall notify the petitioner, in writing, of the officer's intent to deny the petition. Such notice shall include the specific reasons why the petition is not readily approvable.
(2) PETITIONERS RIGHT TO RESPOND.--Upon receiving a notice of intent to deny, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to such notice.
(3) DECISION.--Within 30 days of receipt of the petitioner's response the Office must reach a final decision regarding the eligibility of the petitioner to adopt. Notice of a formal decision must be delivered in writing.
(4) RIGHT TO AN APPEAL.--Unfavorable decisions may be appealed to the appropriate appellate jurisdiction of the Department of State, and if necessary, Federal court.
(5) REGULATIONS REGARDING APPEALS.--Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Ambassador at Large shall promulgate formal regulations regarding the process for appealing the denial of a petition.
SEC. 206. ADJUDICATION OF CHILD STATUS.
(a) IN GENERAL.--Prior to the issuance of a full and final adoption decree or a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 203(a) of this Act--
(1) the Office shall obtain from the competent authority of the country of the child's residence a certification, together with documentary support, that the child sought to be adopted meets the description of an adoptable child; and
(2) within 30 days of receipt of the certification referred to in paragraph (1), the Office shall make a final determination on whether the certification and the documentary support are sufficient to meet the requirements of this section.
(b) PROCESS FOR DETERMINATION.--
(1) IN GENERAL.--The Ambassador at Large shall work with the competent authorities of the child's country of residence to establish a uniform, transparent, and efficient process for the exchange and approval of the certification and documentary support required under subsection (a).
(2) NOTICE OF INTENT.--If the Office finds that the certification submitted by the competent authority of the child's country of origin is not readily approvable, the Office shall--
(A) notify the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents, in writing, of the specific reasons why the certification is not sufficient; and
(B) provide the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to address the stated insufficiencies.
SEC. 301. FUNDS.
The Secretary of State shall provide the Ambassador at Large with such funds as may be necessary for--
(1) the hiring of staff for the Office;
(2) investigations conducted by the Office; and
(3) travel and other expenses necessary to carry out this Act.
Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, two years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of spending an hour with the President of China, Jiang Jiamin. As you know, President Jiamin is tremendously busy and has numerous requests for personal meetings, but he agreed to meet with this particular U.S. delegation because of the importance of the subject we were there to discuss, international adoption. During this meeting, he shared with us that the Chinese believe every child born is born with a red string attached to their heart, the other end of which is tied to the ankle of their soul mate. It is because of this string, they believe, that soul mates eventually find each other and spend the rest of their lives together. It is his belief, that perhaps the same is true of children who are adopted. That when they are born, their hearts have a string that is tied to the ankle of their forever family, and it is because of that heartstring that they eventually find one another.
I will treasure the memory of this meeting forever. Not only because it was an extreme honor to meet with such a learned and distinguished leader, but because it reminds me of how profound adoption is. 19,237 children were adopted by American citizens last year. 18,477 children the year before that, 16,363 in 1999 and 15,744 children in 1998. That is almost 100,000 children in four years. I think it is easy for us to understand the impact that these adoptions have had on the adoptive families and the orphan children, but what I would like to focus on this morning is the impact that this has for the diplomatic relations between the United States and countries throughout the world.
In sheer numbers alone, the impact is evident. In real terms, these children are ``mini-ambassadors'' to 200,000 American citizen parents, 400,000 grandparents, conservatively 800,000 aunts and uncles, and 300,000 siblings. According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.6 million people in the United States were adopted, fifteen percent of them from abroad. Because of this magnificent process, communities all over the U.S. are deepening this understanding and affinity for the people of the world. September 11 reminded us of the importance of continuing to build bridges with the nations of the world. International adoption is one very effective and lasting way to build these bridges.
Over this past year, I have also had the privilege of meeting with the Presidents of Kazakstan, Romania and Russia and high-ranking government officials from Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Africa, and the Ukraine. Each time the message is the same. They want to do what they can to make the Hague more than just a piece of paper with 59 signatures on it. They are looking to the U.S. to lead the way toward a system of international adoption and child welfare that is based on best practices. A system comprised of meaningful protections for the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and perhaps most importantly the children; a system that universally recognizes that a government institution is not and cannot be an adequate replacement for a family and works toward the shared mission of finding every child in this world a loving and nurturing, permanent family.
I am proud to be here today, along with my colleague, the Senior Senator from Oklahoma, to introduce legislation that will take us in that direction. What it proposes to do is simple, but what it might help us to achieve is limitless. Simply put, this bill hopes to streamline the existing international adoption process, consolidate its federal functions into one agency and to empower that agency with the staff and resources it needs to represent the United States, the largest beneficiary from international adoption. With this office in place, the United States can begin to lead the world community in forging an international system of adoption that protects the interests of all those involved.
Under current law the federal responsibility for international adoption lies with the Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This dual jurisdiction gives rise to several problems including: lack of coordination, lack of accountability, duplication of efforts and unnecessary paperwork and fees for prospective adoptive families. It also impedes the State Departments ability to fulfill its responsibilities as the central authority under the Hague Treaty on Cooperation in International Adoption.
Now, you may be asking yourself, as I have many times, what does adoption have to do with immigration? You see, under current law children adopted by United States citizens abroad are treated as immigrants, forced to apply for an immigrant visa to enter the United States. This process is not only impractical, since these children obtain automatic citizenship upon entry into the United States, it is inequitable. Children born to U.S. citizens abroad are conferred automatic citizenship upon their birth and are therefore permitted to travel to the United States on a U.S. passport. Children adopted by United States citizens should be afforded this same protection. This bill affords them that protection.
This bill also proposes that we update the current law definitions of an ``adoptable child'' to reflect the types of children in need of homes throughout the world. The current law definition of ``orphan'' reflects the reality for which it was created; to help U.S. citizens adopt children orphaned by the wars in Korea and Vietnam. As such, it is an extremely narrow definition that in many cases prohibits a family from bringing their newly adopted child to the United States.
In creating an Ambassador at Large for international adoption, this bill hopes to provide the leadership and high level diplomatic representation so desperately needed in international adoption. Under his or her leadership, the Office of International Adoptions will be able to take the proactive measures necessary to limit corruption and ensure that adoptions are performed in the most efficient, transparent manner possible. The Hague Treaty already gives the State Department this responsibility; this bill is designed to help them fulfill it.
Let me tell you why we need to act now to pass this legislation. Because of the lack of consistent leadership by the United States in this area, many countries around the world are in ``crisis mode'' and have been forced to take unilateral actions to solve perceived problems in the system. For two years, there has been a moratorium on international adoption in Romania. The second anniversary of the INS issued suspension in Cambodia is fast approaching. The governments of Guatemala and Vietnam have taken actions to limit the number of international adoptions. In each and every one of these cases, the foreign governments have expressed frustration with the lack of action on the part of the U.S. to limit corruption or close potential loopholes in the system. The end result, hundreds and thousands of children are left in orphanages. This cannot be.
I have spent the past two years talking to foreign governments, agencies, and most importantly, adoptive parents and they tell me that this legislation is needed. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation and I look forward to seeing it passed as soon as possible.
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise today, National Adoption Day, to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to give children everyhwere around the world a greater chance to find a loving, permanent home.
This bill, the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act (ICARE), will automatically make a child who is adopted from another country a citizen the minute the adoption is finalized.
This legislation has a personal impact for me. My granddaughter was adopted from Ethiopia a few years ago. Even though she is a vital part of our family, she was not a citizen when she arrived. We now have to do work to make the law recognize her in the same light we do--as a legal member of our family and a lawful citizen of this country--entitled to the same rights and privileges as all my other biological grandchildren.
ICARE will ensure that foreign-born children, such as my granddaughter, will be treated the same as biological children born abroad to the same parent who is an American citizen. It will help streamline international adoptions and implement best practices for all adoptions.
Situations such as one that happened in my State of Oklahoma would not have happened under this legislation. Anna Lynn Fincher was born in the Philippines and adopted by a U.S. military couple in the Philippines. Even though they adopted Anna Lynn in the Philippines, they never brought her to the United States. Sadly, both of Anna Lynn's American parents died while in the Philippines--before Anna Lynn was able to set foot on American soil and become a U.S. citizen. As a result, she had to be granted Humanitarian Parole, which is granted to people in extreme circumstances, so that she could come to the United States and be adopted by her adoptive sister.
Under ICARE, Anna Lynn would have become a citizen as soon as her adoption was finalized--eliminating the need for Humanitarian Parole and another adoption.
Providing children, such as my granddaughter and Anna Lynn, with a permanent, stable family is the most precious gift we can give a child. I am proud to lend my support to this important legislation that will help give these young people a home.