Pending Deportation of Korean American Adoptee Highlights Major Loophole in Immigration Law

Adam Crasper as a child. (Photo via Gazillion Strong)
Adam Crapser as a child. (Photo via Gazillion Strong)

By his own admission, Adam Thomas Crapser has had a difficult journey; but through it all, he has worked hard to create what he calls a “a semblance of a ‘normal’ life”.

In 1979, Adam arrived in the United States with his older sister as a transnational and transracial Korean American adoptee. Through most of his childhood — and through two placements — Adam was forced to endure unspeakable physical and emotional abuse. In 1991, Adam’s adoptive parents, Thomas Francis Crapser and Dolly-Jean Crapser, were arrested, charged and ultimately plead guilty to multiple counts of child rape, child sex abuse, and child abuse. Adam is a survivor of the Crapsers’ violence.

Adam’s life bears the scars of that torture and what it took to survive; but, Adam has emerged today as a married father of three, with a fourth child due in May. He is, by all accounts, living that “normal” American life.

Yet, that’s not how the federal government sees it. In January of this year, the Department of Homeland Security served Adam with deportation papers. In just one month, Adam will face a hearing regarding deportation to a country he has never known.

adoption

In an interview with Gazillion Voices Radio, Adam Crapser recounts his story. Adam arrived in the United States with the name Shin Song Hyuk in 1979 at the age of four and was adopted with his biological sister by a Michigan family headed by Stephen and Judith Wright. Adam lived with the Wrights for five years, where he faced multiple acts of physical and sexual abuse. Adam says, “this would be my earliest memories of violence and social/sexual dysfunction.”

In 1986, Adam and his sister were relinquished by the Wrights to Child Services, where they were separated from one another. Adam lived in a group home in Oregon for a year before being formally adopted by the Crapsers, who along with one of their biological sons, subjected Adam and seven other foster children — all aged 6-13 — to years of abuse and torture. Adam says in an interview with Gazillion Strong:

During the five years that I lived there with them, every day it was pretty common to be choked from [the elder Crapser] or beat or hit or burned or some form of heinous, heinous, sadistic abuse.

Specifically, I mean, I could go into very memorable experiences I have that stand out for various reasons. For instance, he broke my nose at age 14 because he couldn’t find his car keys, and to this day I have a crooked nose for it.

In 1991, the Crapsers were arrested and charged with sexual and physical abuse; both accepted plea deals to serve 90 days in jail and pay fines for their crimes.

Meanwhile, Adam grew up a troubled teenager, and ran afoul of the law a few times related to misdemeanor crimes (most petty theft), and all associated with maintaining his own survival. By his own admission, Adam has made “bad choices”, but most stem from being forced to endure a string of terrible situations. Adam describes the circumstances surrounding one theft charge (edited for grammar and clarity):

I was homeless and learned many things about myself and  life at this age. At this time I broke into the Crapser’s home in Keizer, Oregon. I did this to retrieve my Korean bible and rubber shoes that came with me from Korea. The Crapsers had refused to return anything that belonged to me or help with  my naturalization.

This happened when I was 17. I was charged after I turned 18 with Burglary in the 1st degree. I was convinced by the Crapsers — as well as by the State’s public attorney — to take the plea bargain and get 18 months probation. I agreed.

It turns out that both the Crapsers and the Wrights committed one final act of neglect against Adam: they never completed his naturalization paperwork.

For those of us who are not transnational adoptees, it may come as a surprise to learn that until recently, American citizenship was not automatically granted to transnational adoptees upon arrival in America. Until 2000 — and unlike the biological children of American citizens born overseas (who receive American citizenship by birth) — adoptees were forced to undergo the same lengthy immigration process that adult immigrants face. But what happens to adoptees whose parents don’t complete the naturalization paperwork for their foster children? Adam says of his own experience:

On more than one occasion I have asked the Crapsers over the years  why they never naturalized me, I was always told, it was not their responsibility.

For adoptees who were placed with abusive (or just ignorant) foster families who fail (or refuse) to sponsor the naturalization of adoptees, this legislative loophole could lead to the predicament now facing Adam: living as an undocumented American for most of his adult life, Adam struggled to attend school or find work without his documented status. Now, he now faces deportation to a country he doesn’t know.

Kevin Vollmers — who works with Gazillion Strong, an advocacy group for marginalized people — is part of a group of activists seeking to pass an amendment to the Child Citizenship Act  of 2000, which was Congress’ first attempt to address this issue. The 2000 Child Citizenship Act removed the requirement for parents of transnational adoptees to complete a lengthy naturalization process for adoptees: instead the Act established automatic citizenship for all children under the age of 18 born or legally adopted outside of the United States, and who are under the legal custody of a parent with US citizenship for two years within the U.S.

Unfortunately, the CCA applied an age restriction and didn’t include a grandfather clause. This means that adult adoptees like Adam — i.e. those who were born before 1983 — remain unprotected and undocumented. For the last three years, Vollmers and his colleagues have worked to try and amend the CCA to remove the age restrictions so that adoptees like Adam can receive protection.

It is currently estimated that over 300,000 transnational adoptees currently live in the United States; approximately one-third of those are Korean American adoptees. It is unknown how many adult Asian American adoptees are currently living without finalized naturalization paperwork; however, Asian American advocacy groups working on the broader issue of immigration reform note that over 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented in this country.

In 2013, the CCA amendment was applied to the Senate’s broad immigration bill and received overwhelming support from both the House and Senate. But, because the larger immigration bill failed to pass, the proposed CCA amendment is now an “orphan” amendment that has languished on the Hill without a new legislative sponsor.

Vollmers writes:

Honestly, it’s a travesty that we’re still having a conversation about adoptee citizenship and deportation.  It’s an injustice that should have been addressed decades ago.  Individuals like Adam were brought into the US by their adoptive parents.  They were promised a better life here.

However, because adoptive parents forgot to finalize naturalization paperwork, people like Adam are at the risk of being deported, can’t get their drivers license, open bank accounts, etc.  Adoptees have been deported back to countries for misdemeanor crimes, back to countries where they don’t know the language or have any support systems available to them.

It’s not just the adoptive parents who are at fault here, though.  It’s the adoption agencies and the adoption lobby in DC who bare responsibility for turning a blind eye all of these years.  And the adoption system itself bears responsibility for allowing this injustice to happen to the very individuals it supposedly helps.

Adam faces an April 2nd deportation hearing that will determine whether or not he will be able to stay in the only country he has ever known.

Poignantly, a commenter identifying as Adam writes in a comment to a blog post about transnational adoption: “all i know is american way of life.”

When did an American way of life come to mean deportation for survivors of childhood abuse like Adam, or survivors of domestic abuse like Nan-Hui Jo?

Act Now! Please share this post to help spread Adam’s story, to hopefully apply some pressure to ICE to halt Adam’s deportation proceedings scheduled for a hearing on April 2nd. You can also contact your local elected representatives and ask them to sponsor the amendment to the Child Citizenship Act that would allow it to apply to transnational adoptees currently living in America as adults, like Adam.

Learn More: Listen to Adam’s full interview with Gazillion Voices Radio

Update (3/12/2015): Adam’s supporters have joined forces with 18MillionRising to launch the #KeepAdamHome social media campaign, and are urging people to sign this petition! I wrote a new post on this update here.

Correction: an earlier version of this post misidentified the podcast that Adam conducted his interview with. I regret the error.

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  • Cpt_Justice

    Of all the people to deport…! This is INSANE!

  • margaret

    How do we get a hold of Adam? Received a letter from Sen Murray.

  • Kevin Haebeom Vollmers

    Hey Margaret, can you please contact me? I’m one of the individuals working with Adam. My email: khv@wearegazillionstrong.org. Thanks!

  • jocohen

    HELL YEAH! America!!! this is how we roll…

    1st Killed his family..
    2nd out of compassion and love of christ.. we adopted little Gook..
    3rd, we use him as sex toy.
    4th, we use him as stress relief tool
    5th, after we are done!!! we kick his sorry ass out…

  • Dorcas Caraballo

    Is there a petition somewhere to further the cause?

  • Hey Dorcas, thanks for reading! Adam’s supporters are currently finalizing language for their petition and I’ve been promised a link when it goes up. Please stay tuned to this post as I will update with that info when I get it! Thanks!

  • Jocohen, I’m sorry but slurs are not permitted on this site.

  • Felicia

    Aside from that fact that Adam had to endure such a horrific childhood only to face deportation because his abusers never bothered to file his paperwork, it makes me so angry that the Crapsers only served 90 days in jail for TORTURE and CHILD RAPE. They got away with ruining innocent kids’ lives.

    I’ll check back for updates, but I hope there was or will be outrage over what those people did.

  • Geez, can this guy get a break?! Wow, this story is just so brutal. I wish you the absolute best, Adam!

  • Jany F

    http://action.18mr.org/crapser/ Petition to try and help Adam remain here in the USA.

  • Thank you so much for providing the link, Jany! I got the email on the campaign last night and also have a new post up here. I’ve updated this post to reflect the campaign launch!

  • Hi Dorcas, in case you haven’t seen yet, a petition is now live at http://action.18mr.org/crapser

  • raptorjesus169

    Isn’t this deportation case going against a presidential order of amnesty towards illegal aliens?

  • No, because Crapser does have a criminal record, none of it (as far as I know) violent crimes (i.e. mostly theft).

  • raptorjesus169

    criminal record from before he turned 18, correct? I’m no law expert, just trying to understand.

  • No worries. No, he has a single non-violent offense as an adult, again I think it was theft, related to being poor and undocumented and making mistakes trying to survive.

    That record is why he doesn’t fall under the recent EO, but also highlights some of the issues with the background check requirement.

  • the avenger

    Whoever is advocating for him in his immigration case should remember that when CPS removed him from his first adoptive parents he became a ward of the state, and it was CPS’ job to see to it he became a U.S. citizen, not foster parents who have no standing to do that. CPS IS part of the government, and Lord knows with the lousy job they did of taking him out of the frying pan of his adoptive parents home only to throw him into the fire of an even worse abusive foster home, the LEAST they can do would be to naturalize him now!

  • the avenger

    Ah, I just read the article again. It says the Crapsers “formally adopted” Adam. Why wasn’t his citizenship an issue before the court at that time? Again, I believe it was the responsibility of CPS, the government agency, to make sure Adam was a U.S. citizen.

  • I’m perhaps naive on this, but I’m unaware of this being something CPS could or would do; how would CPS sponsor that naturalization? CPS is an entity, not an individual citizen.

    I believe CPS views itself primarily as a placement entity, and would view a situation like this as facilitating a re-placement so that Adam could be sponsored by new adoptive parents, precisely because they are never intended to be long-term guardians.

  • Tim Ervin

    Deport the Crapsers. To Antartica. Without coats or shoes.

  • Helena_Handbasket

    I can take spelling mistakes in comments all day long. However, in an article, it’s annoying. I don’t know whether the reporter or the lawyer is responsible for the “bare responsibility” line, but it’s depressing either way.

  • MelaninManson

    Really? Spelling? No comment on the actual content? Wow… grammarians of the world, unite!

  • The quoted statement came from a supporter working with Adam’s case, in an emailed statement explaining why he became committed to Adam’s cause. His email was cited in full — without editing — because I felt it was a very genuine expression of his passion, and wanted that to be communicated unfiltered to my readers.

    To read this article and glean from it nothing more than a misspelling is to completely miss the forest for the trees. Like Melanin, I’m somewhat appalled that this — correcting the spelling error of someone urging us to care about Adam Crapser’s plight — was your take-home message from this article.

    You should also consider the subtle privilege of grammar policing a story emerging out of the immigrant lobby community, where many activists are not native English speakers. Really.