Kerry: Haitian Orphans Deserve Same Legal Protections Given To Most International Adoptees

Press Release

By:  John Kerry
Date: June 14, 2010
Location: Boston, MA

Senator John Kerry today co-sponsored legislation that would help finalize adoptions for nearly 1,000 Haitian orphans who had to leave the earthquake-ravaged country for the safety of the United States before their adoptions were finalized.

"Getting these adoptions finalized and preventing future legal complications is the best thing we can do for these children after what they've been through. The last thing these children and their adoptive families need is more unnecessary red tape. This legislation will provide families with important legal safeguards and some much needed peace of mind," said Senator Kerry.

Children whose adoptions were already in the works prior to the earthquake had to evacuate the country via humanitarian parole visas, and were unable to complete all of the required paperwork before leaving Haiti. In many cases, the paperwork was lost forever in the rubble.

Under the normal international adoption process, an adoptive child becomes a U.S. citizen upon entering this country. However, because the adoptions were not finalized by the Haitian government, children who entered the U.S. on humanitarian visas face a technicality that could result in parents and children being forced to wait years before prospective legal immigration status is granted. As long as their immigration status in limbo, these children are left with fewer legal protections, they may not be eligible for critical resources and they are at risk of being forced to return to Haiti if something were to happen to their adoptive families.

This legislation recognizes the extenuating circumstances of these Haitian orphans and will clear the way for them to join their families and become U.S. citizens. These children have already been vetted by Haitian and U.S. authorities for inter-country adoption to the United States. Under the Help HAITI Act of 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would allow families who are U.S. citizens, to immediately apply on behalf of the children to become legal permanent residents and eventually qualify for citizenship.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).