Yesterday The USCIS Office of Public Engagement and International Operations Division, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, hosted a national conference call with stakeholders to outline Haitian adoptions policy and address questions or concerns. The following represents Joint Council’s understanding of some of the key points presented. Please note that this is not a verbatim representation nor a transcript and is not an official announcement by the US government.
Conference Call 01.21.2010
11:00 a.m. est
The USCIS Office of Public Engagement and International Operations Division, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, hosted a national conference call with stakeholders to outline Haitian adoptions policy and address questions or concerns.
Ms Rachel Ellis
Associate Director for Refugees
Department of Homeland Security
- The goal of the conference call was to get out as much information as to the situation with orphans in Haiti who were in the process of adoption.
- USCIS stated it is very sympathetic and has much concern for families and victims of the earthquake in Haiti and the families within the Embassy located there.
- Prior to the earthquake there was one USCIS officer on the ground.
- Currently there are two.
- Another five will be traveling to Haiti soon. One of these five will arrive on Friday and 4 more will be arriving ASAP.
Michele Bond – Dept Assistant Secretary of State
Department of State
- Received numerous inquires on adopting children from Haiti and are working to identify options to place children in homes.
- Soon after the earthquake, a few children were able to enter the United States as they had obtained a final decree of adoption and therefore the Embassy was able to issue adoption visas for the children.
- Each case is being looked at on a case by case basis.
- DOS is currently doing everything they can to reunite children who have been separated from families while expediting in-process international adoption.
- When children arrive in the U.S. on humanitarian parole the adoptions are not final. Therefore, safeguards must be taken to protect children.
- Wen there is no legal custody there are processes that must be completed before the child can be turned over to potential parents.
- Department of State is strongly discouraging the use of private air craft to transport children in the adoption process with U.S. citizens, unless it has been discussed with the Department of State.
- Proof of pending adoptions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send proof of adoption documents as an attachment. Must be detailed and contain the required documents.
- After the earthquake the immediate focus of Consular Affairs was assisting the estimated 45,000 American citizens in Haiti.
- Also important was assisting Americans who were waiting to adopt Haitian orphans- which were suspended immediately due to the emergency. Immigrant visas were issued to orphans within two days of the earthquake.
- After Sec. Napaletino announced new rules that vastly expanded the group of children that were eligible for approval USCIS began to issue humanitarian parole
- We estimate that in two to three weeks we will be reviewing the last cases of children who are matched with families in the United States.
There are 2 Categories in which cases are being divided up into: Category 1 and Category 2.
- Children who have been legally adopted by US citizens. Prospective parents have already been through majority of process and at the time are just waiting for passport or visa. Adoptive parents have received their final adoption decree from the Haitian courts. If USCIS fingerprints are not still valid families must be re-fingerprinted.
- Adoptive families who are in the process but have not yet obtained their final decree.
- These individuals have been identified by their adoption service provider as a match between a child and a prospective family by January 12 2010. These individuals have actually traveled to Haiti and met the child.
- Need to see evidence of relationship and the parents’ intention to adopt the child/ in order to make sure that child is being put with a safe family. Adoption agencies may have copies of this information:
- Examples include: proof of travel airline tickets, passport visa, a hotel bill.
- A referral letter or evidence that they parent has accepted the match.
- May also include an e-mail message specific to the child and US prospective parent that shows communication.
- Childs availability for adoption
- Correspondence or letter or records of Case number or login
- Birth certificate with last name changed to prospective parents
Chief of Immigration International Relations, USCIS
- Inquires should be sent to Haitianadoptions@dhs.gov.
- Starting today responses in regards to these inquiries will be sent out.
- If more information is needed parents will be notified and USCIS will be able to assist as necessary.
- Within days USCIS is hoping to respond to all.
- USCIS urges individuals who are trying to assist in the process to contact them using the email address email@example.com so that the cases can be evacuated in an orderly way.
- USCIS is concerned with children going to embassy who don’t meet the requirements for categories 1 and 2.
- We have heard from authorities that individuals have been taken of advantage of the situation by attempting to scam adoptive parents.
- USCIS request that families be cautious of scams and contact USCIS and The State Department with any questions.
- USCIS doesn’t have the exact numbers but estimates that 165 paroles have been granted for orphans.
- Yesterday 105 children were granted parole.
- USCIS believes that an additional 100 to 111 may be processed today (01/20/10).
- Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) states that 95 have been paroled into the U.S..
- Please note these numbers are changing all the time.
Office of Field Operations, USCIS
- Office of Field Operations (OFO) is in the process of managing the mailboxes of prospective parents.
- OFO is working, but are unable to keep tally.
- In the email and subject line please include your last name as it helps sort the documents. Information is being looked through and is being arranged into categories.
- If not enough information is received responses are being sent to parents to get them to send more information.
- OFO has started sending information to parents who have met the categories and parents will see messages today.
- It is helpful if individuals can state their last and first name and their date of birth and name and DOB of child and orphanage they were located in the header.
- OFO requests that individuals send separate emails on each child. If received two different referrals, please send two separate emails.
Branch Chief, Programs, International Operations Division, USCIS
- USCIS is trying to coordinate on the ground movement of the orphans to the Embassy and is in constant contact with the Embassy.
- When there is awareness that a group is arriving we are able to send somebody out and meet the orphanage staff and orphans into the gate.
- Orphanages must notify the Embassy and USCIS in advance when the group is coming as they may get lost in the crowd or they may be turned away.
- It is really helpful if adoption service provider and orphanages can send spreadsheets which include orphans name, orphanage, and where they are destined.
- The Contact information of orphanage is really helpful on the list as well.
- USCIS requests that the list be sent before transport to the Embassy.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Process when Children arrive in US
- When they arrive Department of Homeland Security has the responsibility of determining the legal guardian. Children can be released to parents as they are considered the legal guardian.
- When children arrive they are referred to as “unaccompanied alien children.”
- These children become the responsibility of HHS through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
- HHS has the ability to make sure funds are available to care for the child. HHS reviews the potential parents’ homestudy and determines the eligibility of the potential parent in becoming a sponsor, therefore, placing the child in their care.
- Children who enter the US on humanitarian parole are not the adoptive children of sponsors. Each family must go through the adoption procedures in the U.S.
HHS, USCIS and DOS are working together to get more information, which will be incorporated into a written document and put on the website.