Senator John Ensign today joined with his colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; and Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator Designate of the U.S. Agency for International Development to establish a plan for swiftly and efficiently expediting already pending adoptions of Haitian children to U.S. families.
"The earthquake in Haiti and its subsequent aftershocks have devastated an already struggling country," said Ensign. "Many American families were in the process of adopting children from the poverty-stricken country when the quake hit, and those same families are now desperately trying to bring their new family members home. I am encouraging the United States to do all that we can to ensure that these families are not forced to wait even longer because of slow bureaucratic hurdles in the immigration process."
The letter was also signed by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mark Udall (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Kit Bond (R-MO), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
The text of the letter is here:
Dear Madam Secretaries and Master Administrator Designate:
As you are well aware, on the evening of January 18, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it would use its authority to extend humanitarian parole to those Haitian orphans with established adoptive relationships with U.S. adoptive families so that these orphans could travel immediately to the United States. We commend the Department of Homeland Security for making this policy decision and fully support your desire to protect the best interest of these most vulnerable children. What was and remains lacking two days after this announcement is the coordinated logistical plan needed to assure these orphans' immediate safety as well as efficient immigration processing and evacuation to the U.S.
We appreciate that a limited number of cases with access to private planes have been processed and evacuated from the country, but clearly not all adoptive families are in a position to put forward these resources to ensure the safe and swift travel of these orphans to the U.S. Furthermore, DOS and DHS are urging families to stay where they are. We are concerned that without clear direction American citizens will put themselves or the children they are seeking to adopt at risk by attempting an evacuation of their own.
Over the past four days, we, along with several other congressional offices have been urging State Department, USAID and Homeland Security officials to consider the consequences of making this announcement without a plan that ensured safe and efficient processing and travel for these children. Despite our best efforts, over 350 American families are now desperate and many are trying to independently evacuate their children. At the same time, orphanage directors, who are lacking basic supplies such as formula and water, as well as the information and support they need to protect the children in their care, are leaving the orphanages in search of help.
In our view, the chaos that has ensued is a direct result of a lack of logistical inter-agency coordination, a lack of communication to the public, and ad-hoc processing of travel documents by the U.S. Embassy. Therefore, we are writing to ask for your personal assurances that the State Department, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency on International Development and the Department of Defense, puts in place a plan to directly ensure that ALL of the 600-700 orphans affected by Monday's announcement of humanitarian parole are safely and efficiently evacuated within the next ten days.