I had eight days’ notice for this meeting. Eight days to arrange travel, tell my family that I was leaving for Haiti two weeks after returning from a conference with all the adoption agencies and DOS in DC, and to arrange for a stay of execution… er, permission to turn in my assignments late at William Mitchell, where I am a first year law student.
So here I am, in a room filled with seven delegates from USCIS and DOS, many of whom I just saw in DC a few days ago, the Haitian DOS and USCIS staff, and a gathering of agency representatives. Most of the representatives are unfamiliar to me. As it is forbidden by IBESR for an agency to have a representative who is also an orphanage director, many agencies have chosen people who are new to adoptions processing to work on their cases. Worrisome! We addressed the situation by having our primary partner in Haiti pass the reins to a very competent and caring friend to watch over our beloved kids, and incorporate herself as an adoptions facilitation service in Haiti.
Guess who isn’t here? IBESR!! I am beside myself with frustration. Turns out this meeting is a fact gathering session for DOS and USCIS, so that they are very well prepared regarding all the issues we’re facing. I appreciate the sentiment and the effort to really understand what’s going on, but these poor ladies already have heard an earful from me. They don’t need to hear it again. When it’s my turn to speak, I stand up and express my disappointment, because what I wanted to do was debate the legality of claiming any adoption based on a relinquishment in Children’s Court is not plenary. It IS. I won’t bore you silly with the details, but I shared my analysis with U.S. attorney Kelly Ensslin Dempsey and anyone in Haiti who would listen, and they all concur with my logic and my reasons. Plenary is plenary!!
USCIS and DOS tell me that they are not here to debate Haitian law with the Haitian government, which I suppose makes sense. But I have no time for sense. We are aware that there are at least 87 families affected by the latest debacle in Haitian adoptions. I only have time for what is morally (and legally!) right.
I am exhausted and driven wild by the finger pointing. Our government says IBESR has ordered them to stop and evaluate simple versus plenary. IBESR is saying that it is USCIS and DOS who told them they won’t process any more cases. I know for a fact that a great many of the US personnel involved have a strong personal belief that the whole issue is imaginary for most of the stuck cases, but USG policy includes a potent gag order for USG personnel. I’d probably last about seven minutes working for DOS before they fired me!
After the meeting the delegation head out to IBESR. I head out to BRESMA, where I can spend some desperately needed time realigning my perspective and preparing for the next battle. Kelly and I have not been fighting alone. Now we must wait and pray that those with sandals on the ground in Haiti, agitating for common sense and correct statutory interpretation, have won the battle.