U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today joined 33 other senators in urging the State Department and Department of Homeland Security to take additional steps to ensure the expedited adoption of Haitian orphans.
In their letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the bipartisan group of senators called for:
* Continued efforts to find and rescue orphans and process those with pending adoptions in an expedited manner;
* Coordination with international governmental and non-governmental agencies to set up adoption centers that can provide safety and care for orphans;
* Allowing secondary documentation for adoption proceedings in cases where evidence has been destroyed.
"As you know, last Tuesday's earthquake left orphanages without food and water and with little access to medical care," the senators wrote. "We are all aware of constituents who are in the process of adopting children from Haiti and who are now understandably concerned for the children's well being. As the supply of basic services continues to be a grave concern, many prospective parents still do not even know the whereabouts of their adopted children. We are very appreciative of your continued efforts to rescue these orphans and urge you to expedite these efforts."
The letter was authored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). In addition to Wicker, the letter was signed by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).
Full text of letter:
January 22, 2010
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
The Honorable Secretary Janet Napolitano
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Clinton and Secretary Napolitano:
We would first like to commend both of you for your role in a well-coordinated U.S. Agency for International Development led but government-wide response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. We also want to thank you for all of your efforts to rescue victims, reunite families and provide assistance to those who are still searching for loved ones.
We are writing to you regarding pending adoption cases of Haitian children and how your agencies can work with the Haitian Government to further help these children. Specifically, we write to ask that you please continue to expedite the search and rescue of orphans in Haiti so that prospective parents can proceed as quickly as possible to bring their children home. In addition, we write to ask that the Departments work with international and non-governmental organizations to establish, to the extent possible given the multitude of pressing humanitarian needs, an adoptions center in Haiti that can provide safety, security, food, water, medical attention, immigration information, and other necessities to the children, their caretakers and their parents.
As you know, last Tuesday's earthquake left orphanages without food and water, and with little access to medical care. We are all aware of constituents who are in the process of adopting children from Haiti and who are now understandably concerned for the children's well being. As the supply of basic services continues to be a grave concern, many prospective parents still do not even know the whereabouts of their adopted children. We are very appreciative of your continued efforts to rescue these orphans and urge you to expedite these efforts.
We are also very relieved by the Administration's announcement that Haitian adoptive children may be paroled into the United States. However, we are concerned that in some situations, families and children may not have easy access to all of the required documentation that would demonstrate their eligibility for parole and in these cases, we urge you to work with their parents and their caretakers to secure secondary evidence regarding the child's pending adoption. As you know, in some cases, documentation in Haiti has been destroyed and in other cases, the child's application was not yet completely processed. In order to bring these children into the United States as quickly as possible, we ask that both agencies work with families to locate secondary evidence and accommodate situations where a background check must be completed now because the appropriate checks were not completed prior to the earthquake.
Again, thank you for your leadership during this difficult time and I look forward to your responses.