Supporters Aim To Protect Adult Adoptees From Deportation When a child is adopted by a U.S. citizen, they become a U.S. citizen. But that process didn't become automatic until 2000, and adoptees that had aged into adulthood were excluded.

Supporters Aim To Protect Adult Adoptees From Deportation

Supporters Aim To Protect Adult Adoptees From Deportation

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When a child is adopted by a U.S. citizen, they become a U.S. citizen. But that process didn't become automatic until 2000, and adoptees that had aged into adulthood were excluded.


Let's meet some people left behind by changing rules of adoption. This story involves some of the thousands of people adopted from abroad into the United States.


When adoptive parents bring home kids from many countries, the children become U.S. citizens as soon as they arrive, but that doesn't apply to every child, and years ago, when the law was different, it didn't apply to any of them.

INSKEEP: That has meant that some adoptees who have spent almost their whole lives in the United States have not become citizens and have even been deported. Here's Alexandra Starr of NPR's Code Switch team.

ALEXANDRA STARR, BYLINE: When McLane Layton adopted three siblings from Eastern Europe in 1995, she got a surprise - her children would not become U.S. citizens until she went through the process of naturalizing them.

MCLANE LAYTON: And I thought that was ridiculous. If I had given birth to my three children in the country where they were born they would have been automatic U.S. citizens.

STARR: Layton was in a position to do something about the double standard. At the time, she was legislative counsel to then-Senator Don Nickles, a Republican from Oklahoma. He encouraged her to draft legislation that would grant automatic citizenship to anyone who had been adopted by a U.S. parent. Getting the legislation passed turned out to be a heavy lift.

LAYTON: You would think that it would be, like, a no-brainer, but it wasn't.

STARR: At the time, it didn't look like there was enough political support for a bill that would include adult adoptees. So when the Child Citizenship Act was passed in 2000, it only covered future adoptees and those 18 or younger. One of the people who didn't make the age cut-off was Adam Crapser. Now 40 years old, he was adopted at the age of 3 from South Korea. His U.S. parents abused him and never submitted the paperwork so he could become a citizen.

ADAM CRAPSER: They promised that they would take care of these things, and it never happened.

STARR: Crapser subsequently served jail time for offenses that included burglary and assault. The consequences of committing those crimes escalated after 1996. That year, Congress vastly expanded the list of offenses that could result in deportation from the United States. Margaret Stock is an immigration attorney based in Alaska.

MARGARET STOCK: The net result of this was to dramatically increase the population of people who are subject to deportation and had no relief available to them.

STARR: She says the full impact of those changes wasn't felt until after 9/11 when the U.S. government started enforcing immigration law more zealously.

STOCK: So it's kind of a perfect storm when you get ramped up enforcement and then you have a law that excluded a lot of people from getting American citizenship, you end up with these situations that people think are unfair.

STARR: Crapser, who's now married with four children, says he's reformed, but because of his criminal record, he's still facing deportation.

CRAPSER: When I go to bed at night, I panic for just a second 'cause I realize that there's a very, very real possibility that they will send me away.

STARR: Now legislation is being introduced in Congress to give adult adoptees like him citizenship, but it could face long odds. Linda Chavez says that's unfortunate. She recently founded the Becoming American Institute, an organization that makes a conservative case for more open immigration policies.

LINDA CHAVEZ: Looking at the environment now, there's simply no stomach in Congress to passing anything that can be construed as expanding the notion of whom we're going to admit.

STARR: Meanwhile, Crapser's individual effort to remain in the U.S. continues. His next immigration hearing is scheduled for June. Alexandra Starr, NPR News.

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