Adam Crapser was born in South Korea, but, when he was 3 years old, an American couple adopted him.
Until recently, he lived in Vancouver, Wash., with his daughters and his pregnant wife. He has a son by an ex-girlfriend. He used to own a barbershop, but decided to become a stay-at-home dad, sometimes playing guitar and ukulele and watching a rescue dog.
But that will all soon change — Crapser is being deported back to South Korea, away from his family, away from the place he’s spent 37 of his 41 years of life.
He’s being held in an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Wash.
“He will be deported as soon as Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes the necessary arrangements,” Crapser’s attorney Lori Walls told the Associated Press. “Adam, his family, and advocates are heartbroken at the outcome.”
Crapser’s deportation is a sad denouement to a life in the United States that’s been anything but easy.
After being abandoned near Seoul, Crapser and his older sister were adopted by an unnamed couple. All he brought with him across the ocean were a pair of green rubber shoes, a Korean-language Bible and a stuffed dog.
That couple, as the New York Times magazine noted in an extensive profile of Crapser, abandoned the children to the foster system after many episodes in which they forced Crapser to sit in the dark basement as punishment.
He and his sister were split up, and after several foster homes, he found himself adopted by Thomas and Dollar Crapser, who had adopted two other children and were also caring for several other foster children.
According to Crapser, that family was more abusive than the first. They would slam children’s heads on door frames, tape their mouths shut with duct tape and hit them with 2-by-4s. Eventually, they would be convicted in 1992 of several counts of criminal mistreatment and assault.
Before that, though, they kicked Crapser out of the house after an argument. It happened so quickly, he left his Bible and rubber shoes — the last remnants of his birth country — in the house.
He was caught breaking into that house, trying to retrieve the items and pleaded guilty to burglary. Twenty-five months in prison followed.
In the years following, Crapser committed a number of infractions. He was found guilty of unlawful firearm possession and, later, assault after getting into a fight with his roommate. In 2013, he called his son by an ex-girlfriend despite a protection order she had taken out against him.
“I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I’m not proud of it,” Crapser told the New York Times magazine. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way.”
In the past few years, he’d been working to put his life back on track by getting married and focusing on family.
Now, that’s over.
Difficult as his life here has been, he followed the court’s ordered punishment for his crimes. Returning to a country that the AP described as “completely alien to him” was not a punishment handed down from a judge.
But that’s what’s happening.
He ended up on the radar of federal immigration officials after he applied for a green card in 2012. They dug into his background and found a criminal record, which as the AP noted, makes him eligible for deportation.
In fact, it’s a circumstance created by the very parents who adopted, then abandoned, him in the first place. No family that adopted him, nor the adoption agency, ever registered the boy for U.S. citizenship.
Simple paperwork left undone.
Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, told the AP this isn’t uncommon — as many as 35,000 intercountry adoptees don’t have U.S. citizenship, through no fault of their own but that of their parents and the agencies that handled their adoptions.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 fixed part of this problem by automatically granting citizenship to children adopted by U.S. citizens, but, as NBC noted, it only applied to those under the age of 18 at the time of its passing.
Crapser and many others, thus, were left in their strange limbo.
Currently Congress is considering the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015, which would grant citizenship to all children who have been adopted by U.S. citizens.
But it’ll be too late for Crapser, who still hopes it will pass.
“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,” Crapser said in a statement obtained by NBC.
Emily Kessel of the Adoptee Rights Campaign finds his deportation “appalling.”
“We do not choose our families,” Kessel told NBC. “But the U.S. does choose to bring adoptees into the U.S. with a promise of placing these children in safe homes to grow up like any other American … Adoptees are not disposable. We urge the community to call members of Congress and underline the need for a legislative fix now.”
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