Earlier this week, an immigration judge ruled that Korean American adoptee, Adam Crapser, will not be granted relief from pending deportation to South Korea. Crapser, who is married and has three small children, was adopted by an American couple at the age of three and is alienated from his birth country and culture.
According to the Associated Press, Crapser survived years of childhood abuse and neglect. Seven years after he and his older sister were brought to the U.S. as transnational adoptees, their adoptive parents relinquished them, leaving them vulnerable to a foster care system that immediately separated the siblings.
While under the guardianship of Thomas and Dolly Crapser, the couple was arrested on charges of physical child abuse, sexual abuse, and rape. Although both denied the charges, Thomas Crapser served ninety days in jail; Dolly Crapser received three years of probation. One of the events that led to Adam Crapser being threatened with deportation was an arrest when he broke into the Crapsers' home to retrieve the few items that came with him from the Korean orphanage: a pair of shoes and a Korean bible.
The combination of his initial adoptive parents' failure to procure naturalization statuses for their adopted children and the mistreatment Crapser endured once he arrived in the U.S. has created a nightmare situation, but one that is not unique. The Adoptee Rights Campaign estimates that approximately 35,000 transnational adoptees who were brought to the U.S. and raised there do not hold American citizenship. Globally, the U.S. is one of the most prolific "receiving nations" of transnational adoptees. Americans have been adopting children born in Korea for nearly seventy-five years.
Although transnational adoption practices are slightly changing, at the time when Crapser and his sister were brought to the U.S., adoptive parents' goals (guided by adoption agencies and social workers) were to assimilate foreign-born children as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The majority of Korean adoptees were raised in white families and in predominantly white communities with limited exposure to Korean culture or other Korean Americans. The same is true for transnational adoptees from other birth nations. Added to this is the fact that Asian adoptees' cultural experiences differ in significant ways from other Asian/Americans; for instance, they sometimes face anti-Asian discrimination alone when their adoptive families are unable or unwilling to help. In some cases racism and/or Orientalism comes from adoptive family members themselves.
Crapser's experience illustrates the importance of the Adoptee Citizenship Act (2015) that is currently under consideration at Senate and the House of Representatives. This bill aims to close a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act (2000) which itself grants automatic U.S. citizenship to transnational adoptees adopted by American citizens. Importantly, that initial law excluded adoptees that were already eighteen years old in 2000. Crapser has been quoted saying, "While I am disappointed in the judge's ruling and worried about my family's future, I hope that what has happened to me will further demonstrate the importance of passing the Adoptee Citizenship Act."
He is currently being held in an immigration detention centre in Washington State and has waived his right to an appeal in an effort to be released from confinement.
While some supporters focus on the injustice of Crapser's deportation because of the adoption circumstances that led to his arrival in the U.S. and his unfamiliarity with Korean culture, others insist that, instead of viewing adopted people as an exception to the rule, we must challenge acts of deportation more broadly.
More here: Adopted and brought to US, South Korean man to be deported
Read the statement from the Adoptee Rights Campaign: Adam Crapser To Be Unjustly Deported: Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act Now!
Jenny Heijun Wills is associate professor of English at the University of Winnipeg. Her research and teaching focus on Asian/American and African American literatures and cultures. Born in Seoul, she was raised in Ontario, Canada as a Korean adoptee.