International Adoption and Citizenship: Adam Crapser on the Eve of His Deportation Hearing

On the day before his deportation hearing, Korean adoptee Adam Crapser is the subject of a New York Times story today. You can read it here.

I’ve blogged about his situation here.

Here’s the bottom line: International adoptees brought to the US before 2001 were not granted automatic citizenship. If their parents didn’t get the children naturalized, some were able to become US citizens as adults. Some, though, found out that they were not US citizens after they committed crimes, served time, and then were subject to deportation back to countries with which they no longer had any connection. Adam Crapser is one of those adoptees. Adopted from South Korea, he suffered astonishing cruelty at the hands of not one but two sets of adoptive parents. He acknowledges he made bad choices, he was arrested, and he served his time. He is remorseful. He is now married and caring for his children. And he could possibly be deported back to South Korea, where he does not know the language, the culture, or any family.

New York Times’ writer Maggie Jones’ article online today is about Adam’s situation. She also writes about the history of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, and the possible changes to laws that would make retroactive citizenship a reality for all the adoptees brought to the United States to be part of an American family. I am among those quoted in the article. Let’s hope for much-needed change that recognizes that international adoptees deserve all the rights and protections of the US government.

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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.

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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.