Adopted. Abused. 5 Foster homes. Wrongly Accused. And Deported:
Hello, my American name is Monte Haines, and my Korean name is Han Ho Kyu. At age eight, I arrived in Iowa almost 6500 miles from Seoul, South Korea. I was scared and had no idea where I was.
I was given a small room to sleep in, and all went pretty well for the next couple of months, despite the language barrier. Then it started: the physical, mental and sexual abuses. This went on for about six months to a year. My adoptive father used to hit me if I didn't do what he wanted. I attended school with black and blue bruises on my arms and my back. If anyone asked what had happened, I claimed I had fallen down the stairs to protect my adoptive father from getting into trouble.
Sometimes my adoptive father locked me in the closet without food and water. They left me there all day—sometimes for many days. On some bone-chilly Iowan winter days, they made me undress and sent me outside completely naked, tied my hands and feet to two trees and hollered for their two black Doberman Pinschers to nip at my legs as punishment or they shouted for the dogs to chase me around the house. When I came home late from school one day, my dad yanked my right foot and broke one of my toes as punishment. This abuse persisted until a teacher called the Child Protection Agency to investigate the family. Authorities removed me from my adoptive parents' home and sent me to foster care.
I stayed in five different foster homes. The living quarters were crowded, and I mostly slept on the floor. I felt like tossed around garbage—like they didn't want me at all. I hid in inconspicuous spaces and remained out of sight for as long as I could. Eventually, the social workers found a family who wanted to adopt me, but they weren't allowed because they had too many kids, including a son named Monte. I did stay at the house for a while, but I was eventually sent to another foster family.
July of 1981, Holt International Children Services sent me to Mr. and Mrs. Haines. At the age of eleven, I stood in front of a judge and was legally adopted by them. I gained an adoptive brother named John, who was five years older than I was, and like a real brother, we did everything together. We formed a real friendship. I assumed that this family would be good for me. I finally found a family who wanted me and I was happy.
My assumption of the happily-ever-after adoption disappeared when I attended school. The students called me names and made fun of me. I ran out of the building and found a place to hide. While crying, I thought, what did I do wrong? Why am I so different from the other kids?
During the summer, my nightmare came back to haunt me. Mr. Haines, my new adopted father, a man with a good reputation within the community, abused me physically, mentally and sexually. After coming home from playing outside, my dad hit me with a breadboard so hard that I blacked out. Other times my dad crept into my room at night and crawled into bed with me. I endured this for a long time. He also abused my older adopted brother.
My dad kicked my brother out of the house when he was sixteen years old, and I didn’t get to see him for a very long time. I was only eleven at the time and now the only child left in the household. As a consequence, all the abuse was then focused on me. My mom was too scared to leave or to call the cops. If I didn’t mow the lawn, rake the grass, and do other chores correctly, my adoptive father would slam my head against a concrete wall. This seemed to go on all the time. My mom couldn’t handle the abuse and finally divorced him.
My adoptive father moved us to Colorado, along with a friend of mine and his mom, who moved in with us. It seemed like the living conditions were going well until one day a police officer pulled me from class and told me that my dad was arrested for child abuse against my friend and me. My friend's mom called the cops.
I had to leave Colorado to live with my adoptive mom. I didn’t get along with her very well due to being previously abandoned by her, but she treated me better than my father did. I ran away from home and headed for the airport, trying to go back home to Korea where I belonged.
After I had graduated from high school, I enlisted in the United States Army. Because the military enlistment did not require proof of US citizenship, I never doubted my status as a US citizen. I served in the Gulf War for three and a half years and lost many friends there. When I returned to civilian life, it was hard for me to sleep at night. I woke from nightmares, and I couldn't forget the images of war. Some people call this Gulf War Syndrome or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
After the military, I found a job as a truck driver. On February 27, 2001, my driving partner and I were assigned to take a load to the East Coast. When I came to the checkpoint, the authorities were waiting for us. My driving partner didn't tell me he had planted drugs in the truck's trailer.
I spent my time in a jail cell where I was locked up full-time, in a prison, and also in an immigration holding detention center. Inside, there seemed to be around thirty Korean adoptees at the risk of being deported. I learned later that every state has these detention centers. In each one of these, you'll find ten to twenty Korean adoptees, standing by to be deported back to Korea.
My older brother, John, and I fought my case to the best of our ability and to the point of exhaustion from explaining my defense. Eventually, I gave up hope and told him to stop helping me. I knew it was a lost cause.
On December 25th, 2005, I was released on house arrest and required to report monthly to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a Department of Homeland Security. I was required to go to Houston, Texas where the Korean consul was located to obtain a passport. There, I was not allowed to leave the state. I was told my name was not recorded on their computer.
"Your situation is kind of strange to us," the man from the Immigration Office told me. "You're adopted, but you're not a US citizen."
Completely shocked, I was like, "I am a US citizen. I was adopted in '81. The law says if you're adopted by an American citizen, you are an American US citizen."
His only response was that he was afraid of Homeland Security.
I went back to my American home empty-handed and lived out of my car. Fortunately, I found a job with a construction company and regularly reported to the ICE office while applying for a passport to Korea.
My older brother, John, killed himself with a shotgun on August 20, 2008. The trauma for me was unbearable, and I didn’t report to ICE that month as required. When an immigration officer called me, I simply stated, "I didn't report because my brother died."
Only two months later, officers in full SWAT uniforms barged into my room—a garage turned into a living space—pointing handguns and M16 assault rifles at me while shouting, "Get on the ground!" as if I had been a convicted terrorist. They pushed my knees onto the floor, handcuffed my wrists together, and ushered me back to a detention center. I was accused of threatening a deportation officer, but they didn't believe me when I told them this was not true. Instead, I was thrown back into a cell, with the door locked behind me.
When I stood in front of the Immigration Judge, he scolded: "You are not allowed in my country. This is my country. This is my land. I want you out of it."
On November 4, 2009, I was deported back to Korea wearing only jeans and a T-shirt. I had only twenty dollars on me, I couldn't speak the language, and I didn’t know where to go. All forms of my identification and personal documents were confiscated. My escorts, four men and one woman dressed in civilian clothes, basically dropped me off at the Incheon Airport and left me there more than six thousand miles away from everything I knew for almost forty years. Again, I felt stranded in a foreign land. No longer able to speak the Korean language, I was scared and had no idea where to go.
Thank you for listening and for your support,
Excerpt from The "Unknown" Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now
Fast forward to 2017: Monte has lived in Seoul Korea since 2009. He needs your help. He does not understand the language and is barely scraping by. It makes it almost impossible to find a good-paying job. His dream is to be able to live closer to the city so that he is able to walk to work. He needs to rent a two-bedroom apartment to help house another fellow deported Korean adoptee. His dream is also to be able to help people who are in the same situation. Because of his pain and suffering, he needs our help.
The money would go towards 3-6 months of living expenses in Korea while he looks for an affordable two-bedroom apartment close to his job where he can easily walk to. (The extra room would be to house another Korean adoptee so they would have support and not have to go through all that he had to go through when dropped off at the airport). The money would also be used for transportation, first and last months deposit of new apartment closer to his work, (currently he walks about 45 minutes to his workplace) food, utilities, any new clothing for his current job. He only makes $5.77 an hour so making a big move closer to his work is nearly impossible without this help.
Monte Haines is a brave contributor to 'The "Unknown" Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now'. This collection serves as a tribute to transracially adopted people sent all over the world. The book validates the experiences of anyone who has been ridiculed or outright abused but has found the will to survive, thrive, and share their tale.
I am Jenette Yamamoto, a fellow Korean adoptee who at an adult age learned that I was not a U.S. Citizen either. Luckily I was able to become one before it was too late. I know Monte by meeting him in a social media group called Adoption Truth and Transparency Worldwide Network. We got to know each other as members. From hearing his story I called to ask if he would be willing to share his story in the anthology my twin sister and I were compiling. He agreed and I admire his bravery to share his story. I am helping Monte because I feel like he has been through hell and back with no support or help from family or friends. I can't even imagine what it would be like to go through life so alone and isolated, besides the abuse, he endured as a little child and beyond. I think helping Monte will show him how the adoptee community will unite to help one other. It's the least we can do for him.
I have to withdraw these funds into my personal account but will send the funds via Western Union for Monte. Transfer fees cost money ($42) which my twin and I are helping to pay. I will try to transfer big chunks at a time and will be transferring funds to Monte each month as they come in. Any questions or concerns you can contact me through [email redacted]
Adopted? Ever Felt Alone? Whether you are aware of this or not, you are a member of an ever-growing circle of caring compassionate people who understand what it means to be adopted. Join FB Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Network for those who are concerned about current human rights issues.
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