exposing the dark side of adoption
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Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) - Monday, September 25, 2000

Author: Grant Segall, Plain Dealer Reporter: THE PLAIN DEALER


Kevin Day thought he was a good American .

The orphan sailed from Ireland at age 4 to an adoptive home in Cleveland. He has lived in America ever since.


He registered for the draft. He voted every chance he got. He stumped for local Democrats. He joined the government for six years as a Common Pleas Court bailiff. Among other courtroom duties, he told the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service about alien defendants who might deserve deportation.

So Day was stunned to learn, at age 50, that his parents had failed to file the necessary application to naturalize him. He promptly stopped voting and started seeking citizenship.

His reward for coming forward? A rejection and a threat of deportation. The INS told him last month that he had made a "false claim" of voting rights and failed to show "the requisite good moral character" to stay in America.

Mind you, Day 's not worried. He 's mostly sputtering and chuckling about what he sees as a prime piece of federal folly.

With his legal savvy, courthouse connections and solid finances, the free-lance investor and occasional plumber says he 's up to a few rounds with the feds. He already has a letter of endorsement from U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent, saying " Kevin possesses the integrity, loyalty and patriotism that has become the hallmark of being an American ."

What's more, the threat is already fading. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last Tuesday to forgive grown adoptees for any vote, past or future, cast in innocent error. Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, plans to introduce a similar bill in the U.S. Senate in the next few days .

To be sure, Day is not what you would normally call an innocent. He is a lifelong bachelor and a longtime leader of the Lost Boys, a storied band of Rocky River revelers. He gave up booze 11 years ago, but not bars or parties. Then again, he 's a proud patriot.

Day was raised as the only child of a Cleveland teacher and a Cleveland firefighter; the latter died this month, orphaning him again. During the boy's first week here, wearing a kilt and wielding a stick, he snatched back his new bicycle from a jealous young neighbor named Michael J. Corrigan.

In 1983, Corrigan became a judge and made Day his bailiff. The judge, now on the Ohio Court of Appeals, says he dismissed Day six years later over professional differences, not for anything casting doubt on his fitness for citizenship.

Having crossed the ocean young, Day loves to sail. Two years ago, he decided to become a charter captain on the side. He passed a nautical course, applied for a license from the Coast Guard and duly noted his birthplace.

For the first time, he was asked for his certificate of naturalization. He sent away for it. No certificate turned up. So he applied for one.

An interviewer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service asked if Day had ever voted. Steadily, Day boasted. Wrongly, he learned.

INS classified him last month as "amenable to deportation." Mark Hansen, INS district director, says his office must try to deport such people. "There's very little discretion in this type of case."

Not at Hansen's level, maybe. But an INS regional judge usually drops such extreme cases, says Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold. And the national office promised in April to issue guidelines soon for staff discretion with mistaken voters.

The INS also has backed plans to soften a 1996 immigration law, which Republican majorities passed partly to stop Democrats from supposedly importing supporters. The law has led INS staffers to detain and deport many longtime residents for petty offenses. It also made any improper vote, even in the past, a bar to citizenship.

"The law ties everyone's hands," says Kennedy spokesman Will Keyser.

One of two immigration bills passing the House last week - the Child Citizenship Act - would forgive grown adoptees for mistaken votes and restore their eligibility for citizenship.

"It simply would not be fair to subject such an individual to penalties under the immigration law for genuinely innocent acts," Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, sponsor of the act and chairman of the immigration subcommittee, told the House on Tuesday.

The act also would make citizenship automatic for citizens' future adoptees, just as it is for their natural children. Kennedy's spokesman promises similar safeguards and more in the Senate bill.

Corrigan calls the federal threat against Day an absurd case of self-incrimination and ex-post-facto legislation. " He should be grandfathered in."

Day says he wants more than anything to vote again, especially in a presidential year.

"That's a very special right, and I always prided myself on it."


E-mail: gsegall@plaind.com

Phone: (216) 999-4187

2000 Sep 25