Re: Ho Chi Minh City's American orphan (Vietweek, Issue 017, May 11-17, 2012)
I am not very proud of the reactionary policies of the US government regarding the citizenship entitlement of children parented by Americans abroad but more to the point, I cannot see any logic for them in terms of national interest.
If there are sufficient documents substantiating the American citizenship of one parent (almost always the father, as men are notoriously indifferent to where they spread their seeds around) the American government should be able to recognize that the child is an American citizen by law and deal with it, even if the father does not cooperate.
I am acquainted with expats who have fathered children in Vietnam and never married the mother but did have the goodness of heart to register the child as an American and get the kid a passport. But if a father does not do this as in the case described, the child is denied its basic right, even if they were married at some point. They may never be able to live in the US but at same point they may wish to go to school there or to travel without the constant visa hassle that Vietnamese suffer. There are many reasons they can benefit from having their citizenship recognized that involve no expense to the US government.
In my own family, I have a niece who was married to a wealthy Viet Kieu from New York for nearly ten years. He never registered their son as an American. Several years ago she was provoked into divorcing him and he disappeared from their lives although I have heard he is remarried to another Vietnamese and living in the North. He will not answer my emails although we had been good friends.
I had assumed that my great-nephew would be able to get US government recognition and his lawful citizenship with the documents that his mother has establishing his right, but in contacting the US consul in Saigon, I was told that only with a document signed by his father can he accomplish this. I think this is a very strange policy from a country that has passed laws that enable the government to garnish the wages and even tax refunds or lottery winnings in order to collect child support from "deadbeat-dads" but will not allow legal citizens to claim their birthright.
By Richard Mckenzie
The writer is a retired American expat who lives in the coastal resort town of Nha Trang