After a month of increasing social media outrage over the plight of Adam Crapser, the Korean American adoptee and abuse survivor appeared in a US immigration court yesterday on what was also Crapser’s 40th birthday. His deportation hearing is being held in Oregon in front of immigration Judge Michael H. Bennett.
In 1975, Crapser was adopted from Korea with his sister. He was placed with two abusive foster families over the course of his childhood in the United States, including in the home of Thomas Francis and Dolly-Jean Crapser, who were charged with domestic and sexual abuse of nine foster children — including Adam — in 1991. Neither of Adam’s foster parents completed the necessary paperwork to obtain a green card for Adam, and for most of his adulthood also refused to give him his adoption papers so that he could pursue legal immigration status for himself.
Three years ago, Adam applied for a green card, which lay the groundwork for Adam’s current deportation hearing. Through the course of that application, Immigration and Customs Enforcement discovered Adam’s criminal record, which they deemed to be grounds for deportation. In one incident occurring soon after Adam was kicked out by the Crapsers, he was arrested after breaking into the Crapser family home to retrieve a Korean bible and a pair of flip-flops: the only items he had with him when he was adopted at the age of 3. In another incident, Crapser was charged with violating an order of protection for attempting to phone his son by an ex-girlfriend.
Crapser does not shy away from his past. He told Oregon Live yesterday:
“I’m responsible for my actions, and I’ve done my time. Please, just listen to the details… If I’ve really done something so bad, then I’ll take my punishment. But I’ve been around a lot of real criminals; I’ve been around a lot of people who don’t care.
I care. I want to be here. I want to stay here. So I just ask everybody to please, you know, have some leniency on me.
… All I want to do is be the best American I can be. I don’t want to be this broken, screwed-up guy. Just don’t take me out of the United States.”
At the first court date of his deportation proceedings, Adam Crapser’s lawyer described how Adam is a changed man, trying to find redemption for a troubled past that included poverty, unemployment and homelessness. He is now married with three children, and a fourth on the way. Having grown up almost entirely within the United States where he has survived untold abuse, Adam Crapser now faces deportation to a country he doesn’t know and which would forcibly separate Adam from his family.
Yet, regardless of these details, the State has so far elected to pursue deportation proceedings against Adam Crapser. At yesterday’s hearing, the US government blindsided Adam’s legal team with two additional allegations against Adam. When asked by the judge whether Adam had a plea to enter with regard to the deportation, his lawyer — Seattle-based immigration lawyer Lori Walls — asked for more time. Adam’s next court date is scheduled for June 18th.
Since his story first appeared on AAPI blogs (including here), momentum has swelled in support of Adam Crapser’s fight to remain in America. Adoptee advocates in support of Adam Crapser’s legal fight joined forces with 18MillionRising to start an online petition asking ICE to drop the deportation proceedings against Adam. This past week, Adam’s story was picked up by the Associated Press and made it into several prominent mainstream media outlets, including in the New York Times. This morning, PaKouHer of 18MR joined Kevin Vollmers — an activist with Gazillion Strong and who first alerted AAPI blogs like myself to Adam Crapser’s plight — appeared on MSNBC to share Adam’s story and to raise awareness about the legal limbo inhabited by America’s adult transnational adoptees like Adam Crapser, who number in the thousands.
Meanwhile, two Democratic US senators — Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) — are proposing a new bill that would grant automatic citizenship for all transnational adoptees. Numbers are currently unavailable for the number of American transnational adoptees who have been deported back to countries they do not know, but at least a few individual documented cases have been reported.