Perhaps it has been too long since USCIS has truly been held accountable for its actions that it has become desensitized to the legal constraints under which it is permitted to operate. The USCIS is not given carte blanche to make whatever changes or interpretations it wants to long-standing immigration law, without first complying with the Administrative Procedure Act (”APA”). Yet, twice in the last two months the USCIS has issued “memos” that so dramatically change the framework under which these key programs operate, that it has clearly violated the APA.
I’ve been receiving lots of inquiries about how we can help the children who were orphaned by last week’s earthquake in Haiti. The answer is - it depends.
Just like any foreign adoption, an inter-country adoption from Haiti is a complicated process requiring us to prove that the child in question is an orphan and obtain an adoption decree which complies with the laws of the child’s home country- in this case Haiti.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State (DOS), announced a humanitarian parole policy allowing orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States temporarily on an individual basis to ensure that they receive the care they need.
Children who have been identified as orphans eligible for adoption and who have been legally adopted in a Haitian Court or who were about to be adopted in a Haitian Court and who had established a relationship with the American prospective adoptive parents will be allowed to enter the United States on a case by case basis. If you are an adoptive parent in this situation, it’s time to contact an immigration attorney.
But what about the children who were not orphans prior to the earthquake? In order to adopt any child and bring her to the United States, the adoptive parents must prove that the child is an orphan. Orphans are those children who have been separated permanently from their parents by death, disappearance or desertion.
Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a natural disaster or conflict, and their parents may be looking for them. It is not uncommon in an emergency or unsettled situation for parents to send their children out of the area, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. It can be extremely difficult to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption when a natural disaster has occurred. Even when it can be demonstrated that children have indeed lost their parents or have been abandoned, they are often taken in by other relatives in the extended family.
During times of crisis, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for adoption of both the U.S. and the child’s country of origin. This is especially true when civil authority breaks down or temporarily ceases to function. It can also be difficult to gather documents necessary to fulfill the legal requirements of U.S. immigration law. How do we prove that a child’s parent is really dead and not laying unconscious in a hospital? How do we locate the parents of an infant who cannot tell us her name or the names of any relatives?
I expect that the United States will announce a temporary moratorium on adoptions of “earthquake orphans” until the country of Haiti has identified which children have truly been orphaned. Although we have no idea of the numbers involved, it looks like thousands of children may have been orphaned and it could take quite some time for Haitian authorities to start functioning in a way that will allow them to do this.
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to help Haitian orphans while they wait for adoptive parents- click on the links below to see learn how you can make a donation to a reputable relief organization currently helping victims of the earthquake.
Save the Children, World Vision and a unit of the British Red Cross have called for a halt for new adoptions in Haiti. The focus must be on tracing any family members that children may still have and reuniting them.
“Any hasty new adoptions would risk permanently breaking up families, causing long-term damage to already vulnerable children, and could distract from aid efforts in Haiti,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
Stories of Haitian orphanages struggling after the quake and the plight of the children there also has led many kind hearts to ask about adopting children.
After reading a CNN report on Haitian orphans, CNN.com reader Dana Fanning wrote, “It broke my heart. My husband and our 4 children want to know if and how we could adopt [any] of the children orphaned by the earthquake.”
Save the Children Chief Executive Jasmine Whitbread said the “vast majority” of children on their own in Haiti are not orphans, but were simply separated from their families in the chaos.
Their family members may still be alive, she said, and “will be desperate to be reunited with them.”
“Taking children out of the country would permanently separate thousands of children from their families — a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering and inflict long-term damage on their chances of recovery,” Whitbread said.
Allowing a flood of new adoptions also could open the door to traffickers, said World Vision Chief Executive Justin Byworth.
The poverty in Haiti already makes children there “extremely vulnerable” to exploitation and abuse, Byworth said.
“We are concerned not only about premature overseas adoption but also about children increasingly being sent unaccompanied to the Dominican Republic,” he said.
Aid groups said adoptions that were already in progress before the January 12 earthquake should go ahead, as long as the right legal documents are in place and they meet Haitian and international law.
For those who want to help Haitian children, Whitbread said, they should donate to aid agencies who are working on reuniting those children with their families.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has opened an office at the headquarters of the Haitian Red Cross in Crois de Prez to help people locate their relatives, said Pete Garratt, a disaster response manager at the British Red Cross.
The ICRC also has set up a Web site to help people searching for relatives.
Sometimes, there are no words to describe someone’s insensitivity. You just have to let them express it themselves. So, I give you the words of Reprsentative Steve King (R. Iowa), explaining why TPS for Haitians is not necessary:
Illegal immigrants from Haiti have no reason to fear deportation, but if they
are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers and many of them could be
a big help to their fellow Haitians.
Rep. King’s statement is reminiscent of Scrooge’s statement from “The Christmas Carol:”
First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.
Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?
First Collector: Plenty of prisons.
Ebenezer: And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?
First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.
Congratulations Representative King. You have reached the level of Ebenezer Scrooge in your feelings for suffering immigrants. I am sure you are proud of yourself.
Okay, so I completely understand and fully support the need for a watch list to protect the safety of all of those who fly, and for protecting the United States in general. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t pat down the Nigerian underwear bomber to the same degree that they have been patting down this eight year old U.S. citizen from New Jersey since he was two years old? Apparently, the name Mikey Hicks is on the second tier watch list which requires high level security screening. The poor kid has gone through intense scrutiny every single time he and his family have flown into and out of the United States. The question I have then is, which list was the Nigerian listed on? Was he on the second tier list, or the first tier? My argument is not that they failed in discovering the powder in his underwear – what I learned in watching the reports is that powder substances are nearly undetectable, but what I want to know is, what type of screening was he subject to? Anything beyond the norm? Not from what I have heard, but at the same time Mikey Hicks has been routinely on the terror watch list for over six years, and the TSA has not skipped a beat each and every time he has flown. There are some serious flaws with DHS’ system I think, especially since TSA spokseman, James Fontenas commented that, “there are no children on the no-fly or selectee lists,” but would not comment on Mikey’s situation specifically. This is just another example of the need for reform when it comes to how the U.S. government screens individuals coming into the United States – they are spending so much time and placing so much emphasis on names that raise a flag simply because it may be a name of muslim origin, or from a muslim country, that they are missing what is right in front of them.
Haiti, the poorest nation in our hemisphere, and the one of poorest nations in the world, was hit by yet another natural disaster–a 7.0 earthquake. This after a Haiti has endured four major storms in 2008, from which it has yet to recover. Tropical Storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike – pounded Haiti in August and September 2008, killing a total of 793 people and leaving more than 300 others missing, according to government figures. The country was also gripped by a tense political standoff in April 2008 amid riots over skyrocketing food prices. UN troops are a regular sight throughout much of the country.
Okay, so Lou Dobbs appears on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night. And Dobbs appears the more rational one. It is amazing what a desire to get into politics will do to one’s “uncompromising” standards. Watch it here:
Hearing about it, does not do it justice.
Today the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council, along with the Center for American Progress issued a report confirming what many people of rationale mind (including the vast majority of Americans) already knew–It would be an economic disaster to deport 12 million people. The loss of this vital economic element would cause a loss to the U.S. Economy of over 2 TRILLION dollars over the next 10 years. Hey, I think that is real money!
Raising The Floor For American Workers, written by UCLA Professor Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, highlights the economic reality of the the undocumented population in the United States, how tied in they are to the economic engine of the United States, and what an economic nightmare we, as Americans, would deal with if we followed the failed deportation-only policies advocated by immigration restrictionists.
More importantly, Dr. Hinojosa-Ojeda found that not only is a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws (involving BOTH a legalization component AND a an actual workable immigrant visa plan) an economic necessity, it will actually raise the wage floor for all American workers. Frankly, its about time someone looked at the numbers here and ran verifiable scenarios, and did not just play around with easily manipulable census data.
Now, do you think anyone in Congress will read this? Will it change any minds? Ultimately, it is only us, those that understand the human cost of bad immigration policies, that can convince people reluctant to fix our broken immigration system on humanitarian grounds, that it is in our own ECONOMIC interest to makes these necessary changes. Let’s get to it.
I saw an interesting article in the Dallas Daily News today about a man called Robin Whiteley. In 1974, a midwife in El Paso, Texas, placed a day-old baby in the arms of Lora and Royce Whiteley of Fort Worth. Six years later, they officially adopted Robin. Neither the United States nor Mexico has a record of his birth. He grew up, went to school and eventually got married and started a family of his own. Unfortunately, Whiteley, who doesn’t speak Spanish, was recently deported to Mexico on the assumption that it was his country of origin. Although Mr. Whiteley’s parents followed the advice given to them by immigration officials and tried repeatedly to help their son, they were never able to regularize his status. It’s a shame that the immigration officials didn’t understand the laws they supposedly enforce and were not able to advise them correctly. Children who are found in the United States are presumed to be US citizens absent evidence to the contrary. Alternatively, they could simply have applied for an immigrant visa on his behalf because they legally adopted him before he turned 16 years of age. He now lives as an undocumented immigrant in a one-room cinderblock apartment in Reynosa, Mexico. Whiteley can’t work in Mexico because he doesn’t have proper documents, and if caught working illegally, he would be deported from Mexico!