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Adoption Snag Could Lead to Deportation


Adoption Snag Could Lead to Deportation

Oct. 4, 2002, 11:29AM
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

Christopher Clancy and his adoptive parents say they always thought he was a U.S. citizen -- right up until he was put in federal detention last spring and readied for deportation back to Mexico.

Clancy, 21, was brought to the United States for adoption at age 9 months, and his American parents say the government told them he was a U.S. citizen.

Now, after serving a prison term on three burglary convictions, Clancy faces deportation to a country he has not visited since he was in diapers.

"He only knows America," said his adoptive mother, Jean Clancy. "He doesn't speak Spanish."

Christopher Clancy asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcia Crone on Thursday to release him from detention until the dispute over his citizenship is resolved. That could take months, and Clancy has already been in federal custody seven months.

Crone did not immediately rule.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Rose argued that Clancy's attorneys were doing him a disservice by continuing to fight his case.

"They are delaying the inevitable," Rose said.

Clancy, thin with slicked-back hair and glasses, sat looking at his hands throughout the hearing. He did not speak.

Clancy's attorney and experts say his case fits a pattern. American parents who do international adoptions sometimes assume -- or are told -- their children are U.S. citizens once they are brought to this country and the adoption paperwork is completed.

The children get Social Security cards, driver's licenses and jobs. They grow up with Boy Scouts, baseball and Disney World. But some get a rude shock years later, when they are told they never officially became citizens.

Walter and Jean Clancy adopted Christopher in 1982. They filled out the paperwork to make the adoption legal. They also went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to make sure the application was filed to make Christopher a permanent legal U.S. resident. He got his green card granting permanent residency in 1984.

Walter Clancy, who served 16 years in the U.S. Army including a year in Vietnam, was assigned to Korea for a time after the adoption, so Jean Clancy raised Christopher near Atlanta.

She says she took Christopher to the INS office there in 1986 to fill out the paperwork making him a U.S. citizen. While completing the form, she says, a supervisor told them that Christopher was already a citizen.

Jean Clancy says the paperwork she had already filled out was kept at the office. The INS says it has no evidence of the visit.

"Our view is the government lost the paperwork," says Clancy's attorney, Bruce Coane. "The government's view is they have no record, so (Jean Clancy) must not be telling the truth."

Christopher attended Cy-Fair High School and excelled as an athlete, his mother said. Then he got into trouble with the law.

"Like a lot of American kids, he got into drugs," his mother said. He was convicted on three burglary charges in 2000 and sentenced to five years. He got his GED and discovered the Lord in prison, his mother said.

He was paroled last March, and that's when the INS found him.

The INS typically scrutinizes the records of state prisoners to find any who are not citizens. Under a mandate from Congress, any noncitizen convicted of a serious felony must be deported.

Convicted foreign citizens typically do their full time in state prison, but upon release they are turned over to the INS and placed in detention until they can be loaded on a bus for Mexico or a plane for elsewhere.

The INS decided Christopher Clancy is not a U.S. citizen. So after he did his time, he was transferred to a federal detention center to await deportation. The family is fighting the ruling.

Coane, who has asked an immigration judge to rule on Clancy's citizenship, concedes that the judge's statements indicate she will rule for the government.

Jean Clancy says her son has reformed his ways, and she notes he has served his punishment in state prison.

"I don't for one minute condone what my son did," she said. "I just want for him to be treated like an American."

Statistics were not immediately available on how many adopted children are eventually deported. But a few such cases have drawn international media attention, including that of Joao Herbert, a Brazilian native adopted as a child by Ohio parents and deported to Brazil after being convicted on a minor drug charge.

Moved by such stories, Congress approved the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which made foreign children adopted by Americans and under 18 automatic citizens once the adoption paperwork is completed.

Congress estimated the new law would benefit 75,000 children.

But it came a little late for Clancy. He was 19 when it took effect.

2002 Oct 4