The Deportation of International Adoptees Must Stop

Do you think that internationally adopted children should be considered genuine family members, with the rights and responsibilities of other children here in the US? The US Congress appears to disagree. If an adoptee’s parents fail to get citizenship for the child, current immigration law says that the child could be deported when he or she grows up.

Imagine a family which has two boys, one adopted and one biological. Imagine that the sons, as adults, are convicted of the same crime. Both are subject to the criminal justice system and serve their time. The adopted one could then be deported. This has to stop.

Until 2000, citizenship was not automatic for internationally adopted children, when the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) was signed into law. (There are still legal processes to follow, depending on the type of visa.) However, the CCA doesn’t protect those who were adopted prior to 2000, if their parents, for whatever reasons, did not get them citizenship.

Yes: an adoptee, legally brought to the US for adoption by US citizens, CAN BE DEPORTED, never to return to the US again.

Do you know anyone who has messed up and gotten caught smoking weed, or driving drunk, or writing a bad check, or punching someone? Maybe you, or a family member. Maybe your son or daughter has, or will someday.

What if the punishment included deportation, to a country thousands of miles away, where your child had no family or friends, didn’t know the language, and had been in only when he or she was a small child, even a baby?

Immigration laws passed some 20 years ago included provisions allowing deportation of non-US citizens for certain crimes, even after they served their time. International adoptees, brought here for purposes of adoption by US parents (forever families!), surely were not the intended targets of this policy. We all agree that people who commit crimes should be punished and serve their time. It is highly unfair, though, to further punish adoptees because their adoptive parents failed to get them citizenship.

Dozens of other adoptees have faced deportation, to Thailand, Guatemala, Korea, India, Germany, and elsewhere. I’ve written previously about this injustice in “All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees.”

Here are two examples. Joao Herbert was adopted at 8 years old from Brazil, and raised in Ohio by loving parents. Two months after his high school graduation, he sold 7.5 ounces of marijuana to a police informant. For that first time offense, because he had not been officially naturalized as a US citizen, he faced deportation.

From a Washington Post article subtitled “For Children Adopted From Abroad, Lawbreaking Brings Deportation:” Through the thick glass of the visitation cubicles at the county jail where he’d been held since last March, he’d plead with his mother: “I’m your son, right? They can’t take me away, can they? Show them the adoption papers.”

The adoption papers, though, didn’t matter. Joao was deported when he was 22, for the rest of his life. His life ended four years later, when he was shot and killed at 26 years old, in Campinas, Brazil. You can read more here.

Adam Crapser was adopted from Korea in 1979 when he was four years old. His first adoptive family in Michigan subjected him to sexual and physical abuse, and he was placed in foster care at eight years old.  When Adam was 11, he was adopted by the Crapser family in Oregon. Five years later, these adoptive parents accepted plea deals for sexual and physical abuse. You can imagine what Adam’s childhood was like. He talks about it in a Gazillion Voices podcast here. It’s heartbreaking. No child should endure what he went through.


Childhood photo of Adam Crapser from Land of Gazillion Adoptees

Adam has committed crimes, including breaking into his adoptive parents’ home to get the Korean bible he arrived with. Neither of Adam’s adoptive families got US citizenship for him. Now he faces deportation, like Joao, to a country where he does not speak the language and has no friends or family. Now almost 40 years old, Adam is married and has children. He is remorseful for his crimes, and has served his time. It is an outrage that he should be deported.

You can read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 here. It applies to adoptees who were under 18 as of February 27, 2001, when the law went into effect. For older adoptees, there is no automatic citizenship. Some find out when they go to register to vote or apply for college loans. Some find out when they have been convicted and served time–and are subject to deportation.

Adam has a deportation hearing on April 2. Please listen to the podcast, and share this post. Contact your federal representatives in Congress, and ask them to support an amendment to the Child Citizenship Act that so that adoptees are treated fairly, even if their parents failed to get US citizenship for their children.

Update: There is now a petition to request administrative closure on Adam’s deportation case, which would allow Adam to get his green card and move toward citizenship. Please learn more about this petition here. Already over 7,000 people have signed it, which is great news.

Adoptive families deserve to be treated like other families legally, and adoptees deserve to be treated like the family members they are–not perfect, but protected under the law.

Please help spread the word. Many thanks.



15 thoughts on “The Deportation of International Adoptees Must Stop

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  8. Our son came from S. Korea to the United States in December of 2009 and I can tell you that he did not automatically get citizenship.. we had to wait until he was with us for 6 months before we could finalize his adoption here in New York. Once that was complete, we were able to apply for his US Passport (which is how they establish citizenship at least for little ones)..and apply for his social security number. So it isn’t just adoptions pre- 2001. It may be so for adoptions that are finalized overseas before they come to the US. We were told several times by our adoption agency- how important it is to establish their US citizenship because if it’s not done, they can also be drafted into the military when they turn 18- in their country of birth! Parents please take your responsibilities seriously– you spent so much time trying to build your families– a sometimes very long and daunting process. It’s not difficult to get their US citizenship– and much easier to do while you still have all of the adoption paperwork in hand, and not in a lock box or a safe. Thank you for writing about this!

    • Yes, you’re right. Children who enter on an IR-4 visa need to be readopted here to get the Certificate of Citizenship. In any case, it is so incredibly important to make sure that citizenship is completed. Thanks for your comment!

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