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The Case for Joon Hyun Kim

International Examiner: The Journal of the Northwest Asian Pacific American Communities

The Case for Joon Hyun Kim
Category/Issue: News, Volume 34 No. 09
BY KEVIN MINH ALLEN Examiner Contributor
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 took effect in early 2001 with much fanfare coming from the adoption community because it automatically confers U.S. citizenship on adopted children once their adoptions are legally finalized. In spite of this, transnational adoptees who were adopted before this law took effect, and had not become naturalized citizens, represent some of the most vulnerable immigrants in the United States. Unbeknownst to them, and most likely their adoptive parents, their immigration status is tenuous, even though they grew up believing they were fully recognized members of American society. Kevin Minh Allen reports on the story of Joon Hyun Kim.

He is not the first adult adoptee with a criminal record that the government wants to deport back to his birth country. But, Kim’s case once again illustrates the fateful convergence of decisions made and not made by adoptive parents and adoptees, who are eventually left to confront the issues of ethnicity and nationality by themselves and without much guidance.

As soon as I saw Kim, his body language spoke volumes. It told a story of stoic resignation in the face of bureaucratic machinations and acceptance of the fact that his freedom lies in other people’s hands. He’s also had a lot of time to think about how his life could have turned out if childhood circumstances had been different, but that also he has to atone for the mistakes he has made as a young adult.

However, the biggest mistake that he will have to live down for the rest of his life was not of his own doing: his adoptive parents forgot their responsibility to have Kim made a naturalized U.S. citizen. This process should have been second nature to his adoptive parents, seeing that his mother worked for Holt International, a well-known and respected Northwest adoption agency....

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