Meeting day, with a capital M. First to the Consulate. Once upon a time, when I first started working in Haiti, DOS was difficult. We had a few workers who weren’t very enthusiastic, and one who was perfectly vile. Fortunately he didn’t last long. Over the last few years, we’ve been blessed with true allies in finding ways to follow the law and bring kids home. I’m especially grateful to have just that sort in the Adoptions Unit now. We have a lot to discuss.
First, we go over what a ‘normal’ adoption process might look like. I need to know – we’ve only had ONE Hague process Haiti adoption completed for the US! The second one will also be a pretty standard case, but my case with the Puerto Rican family is unusual, in that the family legally adopted the child prior to the issuance of an Article 5 letter from DOS. I’ll explain all those Articles and steps in another post, but for now, suffice it to say that it’s pretty involved, and if you don’t do everything in the right order you’ll have an enormous mess to clean up.
In this case, my client family followed the specific and wildly inaccurate advice of a licensed attorney who apparently did not know much about immigration law or international adoptions. We had to obtain the first-ever letter of permission from IBESR to proceed with a Hague adoption that was completed out of order. Obtaining that letter took a truly monumental effort on behalf of some friends of the family, my partner and myself. Not to mention several US government employees.
Because we’re sort of backwards and upside down in this case, the Adoptions Unit officer explains the procedure we need to follow. He also explains why, because the future lawyer in me always questions everything for my clients and he’s a lawyer too. But it seems that he’s worked out the fastest possible way to get M home with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. And then, just because he’s a nice guy, he agrees to try change the family’s visa appointment so that they can attend it and not have to reschedule their flight home. Honest- the people at DOS are not heartless bureaucrats.
He proves this point even further when we go over all the possible options for getting my dear O out of Haiti depending upon her TB status. I tell him that I understand it’s just one child, but she means a lot to me. He tells me that she’s just one child, and she means a lot to him too. They all do. I think for some of the USG staff, working on messy cases is even more painful than it is for me and my colleagues. They are the ones who have to say no, and they do understand the consequences that befall the kids when they do.
Next I meet with USCIS, who has agreed to see me on ridiculously short notice even though I argue with them every time I meet them. This time is no exception, and all three ladies in the unit are present for the meeting. Good thing I don’t get intimidated easily!
We discuss three of my cases. I don’t get everything I want, but I come out basically satisfied with the meeting and which battle I’m going to win, which I’ll concede, and which I might have to revisit. USCIS is not looking for trouble either. It’s just that our agency often takes on really complex cases, which are more involved and challenging than the ‘average’ adoption. Our ordinary cases are going through nicely, with no debate needed.
Next I meet Dr. Bernard in his office downtown. We go over our mutual case load, talk politics, and discuss his desire to expand the school at New Life Link to the community. It’s a remarkable program he has started. The kids speak English. Like, really speak it. Not just memorized phrases. They are using the Abeca curriculum. Many of the kids are at or approaching grade level. They will have a huge advantage post-adoption. I offer to put him in touch with a professional grant writer that I know to see if she’d like to donate some time and expertise to a worthy and proven cause.
Finally, I am supposed to visit one last potential orphanage partner. But the torrential rains have made access impossible. I just can’t get there. Frustrating! Instead Franck and I head to the airport. I hope he’s not tired of me after our very long day together, because we end up sitting in the car for two hours waiting for a late flight. And then it turns out the people we were waiting for were not on the flight at all. Even Franck comments that we wasted a lot of time – a complaint I’ve never heard him make before in all these years. As we pull out of the parking lot, it begins to rain and then to pour. Our drive home through streets that resemble flooding rivers jammed with stalled traffic takes around an hour and a half. It’s fully dark and most of supper is gone by the time we finally reach the guest house, and I feel like a wrung-out sponge. The remains of a marvelous dinner taunt me. I eat some of what little is left, but Susan saves the day by magically producing ice cream.
It’s my last night in Haiti. I am surrounded by family and friends. I have chocolate ice cream, good conversation, and the knowledge of some tasks accomplished. My cold shower awaits. It’s all good.