From the Associated Press:
1,000 Haitian Orphans Stuck in Legal Limbo Senators: We Must Break the Gridlock, Protect Our Children.
WASHINGTON — Approximately 1,000 Haitian orphans who left the earthquake-ravaged country for the United States before their adoptions were finalized are now facing legal limbo and fewer legal protections. U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) proposed legislation to clear the way for these adopted Haitian orphans who were granted humanitarian parole to the U.S. to become citizens.
Senator Gillibrand said, "I am relieved that the Haitian orphans who have been waiting for their adoptive parents are finally safe and sound with their proud mothers and fathers. But the unprecedented devastation has turned the adoption process upside down, where it could take years before these children could have any legal status. In this moment of great uncertainty, we must clear the gridlock and ensure that these children have the legal protections that they deserve."
Senator Inhofe said, "Prior to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January, many Americans sought to open their homes and their lives to the most vulnerable children in Haiti, the orphans. Unfortunately, the earthquake forced these children and their adoptive parents into an abnormal adoption and immigration process. This bill will alleviate the legal burden facing the adoptive parents of this group of orphans, and finally bring needed relief as these adoptive families begin their lives together."
"International adoptions involve a long and complicated process that requires families to complete dozens of steps before a child can become part of a loving family," said Senator Landrieu. "The process is even more difficult for Americans adopting Haitian orphans. Having entered the U.S under the humanitarian parole policy, these children face additional red tape to complete their adoptions and become U.S. citizens. This bill will simplify that process, providing families some piece of mind and safeguards against the expiration of the temporary status."
After the earthquake halted the adoption process and forced 1,000 adopted Haitian orphans to evacuate through humanitarian parole visas with the permission of the Haitian government, thousands of U.S. parents are now confronted with hurdles in their efforts to provide their children legal status in the U.S. Many Haitian children, although deemed orphans by Haitian authorities, did not have all of the final paperwork required for adoption before they left Haiti.
Under the normal international adoption process, an adoptive child becomes a U.S. citizen upon entering this country.; Without their adoptions being finalized in Haiti, the children who entered as humanitarian parolees face a technicality that would result in parents and children waiting years before prospective legal immigration status is granted.
There is no safety net to assure that these children would become citizens, as they would have otherwise been under conventional channels. So long as their status is in limbo, these children are left with fewer legal protections, may not be eligible for critical resources and risk being forced to return to the ravaged country if something were to happen to their adoptive families.
The Gillibrand-Inhofe-Landrieu legislation addresses these concerns by recognizing the extenuating circumstances following the earthquake facing these Haitian orphans by cutting through the legal limbo and clearing the way for Haitian orphans who were granted humanitarian parole to join their adoptive families in the U.S. to become citizens. These orphans have been vetted by Haitian and U.S. authorities for inter-country adoption to the United States. Under the Help HAITI Act of 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would allow families, who are U.S. citizens, to apply immediately on their adopted children's behalf to become legal permanent residents and eventually qualify for citizenship.
As a follow up, here is the press release from Senator Landrieu's office:http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/pressreleases/05-26-2010-1.cfm
To clarify, there seems to be a minor inaccuracy in the article. I have been told directly at USCIS DC that once you have adopted your child in your state of residence, there is no possible way he can be expelled from the US unless he is over 18 and commits a felony prior to your obtaining complete citizenship for him, and even then it would be difficult. He CANNOT be 'returned' to Haiti if you, his adoptive parents, were to die. One less thing to worry about...
I think the odds of this bill passing, given the current political climate and popular support for Haiti, are excellent. If you'd like to thank someone for this excellent news, I recommend a donation of any size to the Joint Council. This bill, like the Humanitarian Parole program itself, would not have been introduced without their constant lobbying and advocacy.