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From adoptee to deportee: S. Korean man is sent back to birth country

Adam Crapser, a native of South Korea who was adopted by a US family when he was three years old, is set to be deported 37 years later. 

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    Korean adoptee Adam Crapser, left, poses with daughters, Christal, 1, Christina, 5, and his wife, Anh Nguyen, in the family's living room in Vancouver, Wash., on March 19, 2015.
    Gosia Wozniacka/AP
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Adam Crapser, like many adopted children, was brought to the United States from South Korea when he was three years old.

Now, 37 years later, the father of three US citizens will be deported back to the country where he was born, an immigration judge ruled this week. 

Mr. Crapser's adoptive parents, who abandoned him and his sister seven years after adopting them, never filed applied for naturalization, making Crapser one of an estimated 35,000 adoptees from other countries who do not have US citizenship, according to immigration reform advocates. His case comes as a bill known as the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015, which would grant automatic retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees and allow those who have already been deported to return to the US, is under consideration by the US Senate and House of Representatives. 

After being abandoned by his adoptive parents as a child, Crapser was taken in by a foster couple who allegedly abused him and were arrested in 1991 on charges of physical child abuse, sexual abuse, and rape, the Associated Press reports. He first came to the attention of federal immigration officials when he applied for a green card and a background check brought up his past criminal convictions, which include charges for stealing cars, assaulting a roommate, and breaking into his parents' house, allegedly to retrieve the Korean Bible and rubber shoes that came with him from the orphanage. Those convictions meant that he could be deported under immigration law. 

This week, immigration judge John C. O'Dell ruled against granting Crapser a discretionary form of relief called "cancellation of removal," which would have allowed Crapser to stay in the US with his wife and children. 

Crapser is not the only adoptee to face such a situation. As Maggie Jones reported for The New York Times last year: 

No one knows exactly how many international adoptees in the United States don’t have U.S. citizenship; in some cases, adoptees don’t find out themselves until they apply for federal student loans, try to get a passport or register to vote. But at least three dozen other international adoptees have also faced deportation charges or have been deported to countries like Thailand, Brazil and South Korea.

Adoption experts in South Korea — the world’s top exporter of children for American adoption at the time that Crapser was sent to the United States – told me they know of at least 10 to 12 deported adoptees in the country, including one who served in the U.S. military.

The plight of these adoptees has led to the creation of the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015, a bill that would close a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 automatically granted US citizenship to children adopted by US citizens – but did not apply to adoptees who were already over the age of 18 at the time the law passed in 2000. 

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015, if passed, would grant automatic retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees to whom the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 did not apply and allow those who have already been deported to come back to the US.

"We do not choose our families," Emily Kessel of the Adoptee Rights Campaign told NBC News. "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. Failing to grant citizenship to intercountry adoptees inhibits such individuals from fully contributing to our society and sends a negative message about our country. 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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