Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

US senators unveil plan to aid Haiti orphans


WASHINGTON — Three US senators on Wednesday unveiled a bill to clear away hurdles to citizenship for roughly 1,000 Haitian orphans whose adoptions by US parents were rushed because of a January earthquake.

US and Haitian authorities cleared the children to join their adoptive parents after the disaster. But without the complete paperwork necessary to finalize their adoptions, a roadblock has been raised to what would normally be automatic US citizenship upon entry into the United States.

“The unprecedented devastation has turned the adoption process upside down, where it could take years before these children could have any legal status,” said Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“In this moment of great uncertainty, we must clear the gridlock and ensure that these children have the legal protections that they deserve,” she added.

Gillibrand was joined by fellow Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Senator James Inhofe in unveiling the plan.

“This bill will alleviate the legal burden facing the adoptive parents of this group of orphans, and finally bring needed relief as these adoptive families begin their lives together,” said Inhofe.

The children were allowed into the United States through humanitarian parole visas and formally deemed orphans by Haitian authorities, but failure to complete the adoption paperwork could result in a years-long wait before they can get legal resident status.

The legislation would enable US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to allow parents who are US nationals to apply immediately on their adopted children’s behalf to become legal permanent residents and ultimately qualify for citizenship.

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