This Presidential Election Is a Nightmare for Adopted Kids Like My Daughter

girl with American flag

"You can go anywhere and be anything you want to be if you work hard enough" -- this the common refrain at our house when the discussion with my daughter turns toward college and thinking about the future.

Except ... that's not true. 


My daughter is an adoptee from China, and since she was not a US citizen from birth, the Constitution forbids her from becoming president of the United States.

The US Constitution states: "No person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the office of President." The same goes for being vice president.

Now I grant you, as an 11-year-old middle schooler she hasn't picked a running mate or formed a Super PAC, but that's hardly the point. Her discovery of this exclusionary law couldn't come at a worse time.

Thanks to Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric about immigrants that is being used to ratchet up fear among voters in the presidential election, my daughter has been made to feel like an outsider for the first time since coming to this country.

It makes me sick. And very, very angry.

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My husband and I adopted Madeline from China in 2005 when she was just 10 months old. A few days before we flew home, she was sworn in as a US citizen at the consulate in Guangzhou. She remembers nothing of her life in China, and last year, on the 10th anniversary of her adoption, she wrote us a thank-you and drew a little American flag on the top of the note with the words "Proud to be an American."

Madeline first learned that she and other foreign-born adoptees are not eligible to run for president after she picked out a T-shirt at Target emblazoned with the words "Future President" and another child at camp explained why that wasn't possible.

"Is that really true, Mommy?" she asked when I picked her up that afternoon. "Is it because so many people don't like immigrants now?"

"No, honey," I told her, hoping she wouldn't hear my voice breaking. "It's because of a law that was written over 200 years ago. It has nothing to do with what's happening with this year's presidential election."

"But doesn't Donald Trump want to kick out all the immigrants? Does that include kids adopted from China?"

And there it is.

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In her 11 year-old mind, it's not the founding fathers who are telling her, in effect, that she does not have the same privileges as other US citizens -- even if it is true. Instead, she has absorbed the miasma of prejudice emanating from Trump's campaign and now is left wondering if she, and others like her, will also wind up a target.

Every time my daughter hears Donald Trump talking about "building a wall" to keep out people from another country, or -- even worse -- sending others back to "where they came from," she raises some question or another that is clearly a sign she's looking for reassurance that he won't start spewing hate directed toward Chinese people living in the United States.

Believe me, she has never seen a second of cable news in our house (except during the Pope's visit), but she doesn't have to in order to know what's going on. Televisions blare wherever we go -- the diner, the nail salon, the doctor's office. The news, or what passes for it these days, is inescapable.

Days after her discovery, the law prohibiting foreign-born adoptees from holding the country's highest office was still on Madeline's mind. "It's not like I want to be president, but the idea of not being able to even dream about it is not fair."

"You can always dream," I told her. "In the future, things could be different."

I was happy to tell her that there is another girl adopted from China, 10-year-old Alena Mulhern, who is working to change the law and took her case to the State House in Boston where she lives. Alena wants to run for president when she grows up.

"Good for her," said Madeline. "Maybe then we can change things."

I certainly hope so, because the state of affairs we find ourselves in now is downright frightening. One in every 10 people in the US was born in another country. Are we really willing to discount 10 percent of the population when searching for the best candidate for president? I don't know about you, but given this year's caliber of candidates and the way politics in this country is going, I don't think we can afford to rule out any qualified person who wants to run for higher office.

I have no idea if my daughter will grow up to have political aspirations, but I won't stop fighting for her right to have them. I want the country she so loves to be worthy of her.

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This is a kid who taught herself the state capitals, who memorized every state's birds and flowers in the first grade. She can tell you where each state is on a blank map and has, on more than one occasion, looked down at cracks in the sidewalk and said, "Look Mommy, that's the same shape as North Dakota."

She keeps track of how many states we have visited, and her "bucket list" includes a trip to the remaining 39 she's yet to see. Social studies is her favorite subject. Not too long ago, she told me, "I'm going to learn everything I can about America. There are so many different kinds of people with interesting stories to learn from."

If only our so-called -- and would-be -- leaders felt that way, too.  



Image via Maryna Kulchytska/Shutterstock

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