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International Adoptions: Another Crack In The U.S. Family Unity System

– Posted in: Family Immigration

I recently read a news article updating and sharing yet another sad tale of how small quirks of fate can lead to disastrous immigration consequences.

As a naturalization lawyer, I know the separation of immigrants from their U.S. citizen family members and removal to a country they don’t remember is not uncommon in immigration law.

It’s a dismal aspect of our nation’s immigration policies.

Despite the obvious pain and suffering for mixed status families trapped in these situations, Congress has not shown any sense of urgency to address immigration reform.

Even when some cases present an unusual twist, an unanticipated consequence of laws enacted decades ago.

This news article highlights such a twist: an adopted South Korean child of U.S. citizens, who generally stands in the same legal shoes of a biological child of American parents, faces permanent separation from his wife and children because the parents were irresponsible.

South Korean Adopted At Age 3 Is To Be Deported Nearly 40 Years Later
National Public Radio, Camila Domonoske, October 27, 2016

Adam Crapser was brought to the United States when he was 3, to start a new life — new parents, new culture, new country.

But his adoptive parents didn’t complete his citizenship papers. Then they abandoned him to the foster care system.

And now, as a 41-year-old father of four, he’s being deported.

His predicament is the result of parental failings, a criminal past and acts of Congress.

International Adoption Shortcomings

Born Shin Song Hyuk, when Crasper was three years old, he and his older sister were abandoned. They ended up at an orphanage outside of Seoul, South Korea.

Five months later, he was on his way to the United States, along with his sister to start a new life – new parents, new culture, new country.

However, his adoptive parents never completed his citizenship papers. He was abandoned to the foster care system. He and his sister were separated.

His sister is a U.S. citizen. The family who adopted her helped help obtain citizenship status.

Crapser was not as fortunate. His second set of U.S. parents were more abusive than his first. They never filed his green card or citizenship applications.

He was kicked out of the house at the age of 16. He entered the house one day through an open window to reclaim his belongings and Korean bible.

He was arrested for burglary. He pled guilty. He spent 25 months in prison.

He is now an aggravated felon under immigration law, which means he is subject to automatic deportation.

A Call To Modify The Child Citizenship Act

In my role as a San Bernardino immigration lawyer, I’ve met various individuals, like Crasper, who face deportation due to small quirks of fate 10, 20, 30 years ago when they were much younger.

My view is that they should be allowed the opportunity to seek a second chance – not the right to be granted such a second chance – simply the chance to plead their case.

There are those who assert, “That’s the law, those are the breaks.”

I don’t buy into that sentiment.

Since all laws are man-made, they can – and should – be corrected when the same problems surface over and over again due to short-sighted and often narrow-minded planning.

The immigration law which went into effect on April 1, 1997 regarding criminal convictions is one such example.

Current immigration law regarding transnational adoptees is another.

Crasper, under immigration law, is considered to be a transnational adoptee.

Prior to 2000, these children were not granted automatic citizenship, though they were in the same legal position as U.S. children born in other countries. Rather, they were required to seek immigration benefits like adult immigrant sons and daughters.

To fix this discrepancy, in 2000, the Child Citizenship Act was passed, bestowing citizenship automatically upon arrival in the U.S. to transnational adoptees – similar to biological children of U.S. citizens born abroad under the rules for acquisition of citizenship. However, the law only covered adoptees 18 years or younger.

As an older adoptee, Crasper was excluded.

If he had been covered under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, Crasper would be deemed a citizen of the United States. As a citizen, he would not be subject to deportation for his offenses.

The cut-off date for the Child Citizenship Act is arbitrary. Why would any limit be set on such matters? How many more applicants would attempt to walk through these doors?

In my view, not many.

More significantly, to the extent one immigrant child is left out, the law’s cut-off date is flawed.

This point, of course, leads to another issue: the need to fix our nation’s overly inclusive definition of aggravated felonies – felonies which automatically preclude immigrant defendants from any relief, regardless of deep community and family ties.

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics