Washington, D.C. – Approximately 1,000 Haitian orphans who left the earthquake-ravaged country for the United States before all of their administrative steps 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) last week announced final passage of legislation to clear the way for these adopted Haitian orphans who were granted humanitarian parole to the U.S. to become citizens.
Sen. 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 international adoption process upside down, where it could take years before these children could have any legal status in the U.S. In this moment of great uncertainty, we must ensure that these children have the legal protections that they deserve.”
Sen. Inhofe, the co-chair of the Congressional Adoption Caucus, said, “It is imperative that we provide much needed relief to the orphaned children of Haiti and their new adoptive families in the United States. In order to assist these new families, we must cut through the endless bureaucratic red tape and take action. This bill alleviates the legal burden facing the adoptive parents of this group of orphans, and finally brings needed relief as these adoptive families begin their lives together. I am pleased to have worked with my Democrat colleagues on this bill, and now that the House is coming back for a brief session in August, hopefully they will also pass this important legislation.”
Sen. Landrieu said, “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. 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.”
Prior to the earthquake, approximately 1,000 Haitian orphans were in the final administrative steps in the adoption process. The chaos following the quake disrupted the process. Humanitarian parole was then granted to these children, who were identified through careful examination of documents and already matched with prospective American parents.
Now many U.S. parents are 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. Other orphaned children who did not receive adequate vetting in Haiti have not been granted parole to come to the U.S.
Under the normal international adoption process, an adoptive child becomes a U.S. citizen upon entering this country. Without their adoptions being administratively finalized in Haiti, the children who entered as humanitarian parolees face a technicality that would result in parents and children waiting years before citizenship is granted.
There is no safety net to assure that these children would eventually become legal residents, 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 become U.S. 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.