WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the co-chair of the Congressional Adoption Caucus, today applauded the U.S. Senate passage of the Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act of 2010 (HELP Haiti Act). Under the new legislation, which Inhofe introduced with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Haitian orphans adopted by American families following the devastating earthquake will have much needed relief and legal certainty.
“It is imperative that we provide much needed relief to the orphaned children of Haiti and their new adoptive families in the United States,” Inhofe said. “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.”
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.”
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.”
Had the earthquake never happened, these Haitian adoptees would have gone through the normal adoption and adjustment-of-status process. That is, once their prospective U.S. parents completed the requirements for legal adoption in Haiti, these Haitian adoptees would have been granted citizenship upon entering the United States to join their adoptive families. Due to the January 2010 earthquake, however, this group of adoptees came to the United States before completing the legal requirements in Haiti.”
For the majority of the roughly 1100 Haitian adoptees who entered the United States pursuant to the Department of Homeland Security’s humanitarian parole, their adoptive parents will have to complete their legal adoptions, not in Haitian courts, but in U.S. state courts. After their adopting parents establish a legal relationship with them, the adoptees will have to wait two years, due to a physical custody requirement, before being allowed to adjust their status. Much can happen in two years, and there have been instances where adoptive parents fail, for various reasons, to adjust the status of their adopted kids to legal permanent resident. This can cause complications for the children down the line.
This is where the Help Haiti Act comes in. It realigns and harmonizes this abnormal adjustment-of-status process with the normal one. It authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust the status of Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by American families prior to the earthquake. This bill would normalize the currently abnormal process, by allowing for a one-time adjustment of status, specifically for this group of Haitian children. When adopting parents establish a legal relationship with these Haitian adoptees-in-progress, the Help HAITI Act will enable these parents and legal guardians to immediately apply to adjust the status of these children, just as they would have under current law had the earthquake not happened. Moreover, the draft bill would alleviate staff and resource demands on USCIS.
The Inhofe-Gillibrand-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 join their adoptive families in the U.S. to become citizens.