‘Waiving of visa rules is temporarily and to be decided on a case-by-case basis’.
20 January 2010. Late Monday, U.S. authorities authorized the use of humanitarian parole for orphans eligible for adoption in the United States, in the wake of last Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude quake.
“While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorizing the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The arrangement for now is temporarily and is to be decided on a case-by-case basis. The policy will apply only to those several hundred children whom the Haitian government had already identified as orphans, and whom adoption agencies had matched with couples in the United States before the Earthquake.
Visa rules have been waived so that US parents adopting children from Haiti would not have to wait for final paperwork or passports from the Haitian government.
The first wave of 53 Haitian orphans flew into Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Their orphanage in Port-au-Prince, run by two sisters from Pennsylvania, Jamie and Alison McMutrie, was destroyed in the earthquake.
The McMutries had waged a days-long campaign sending out endless tweets on Twitter to persuade the Pittsburgh authorities to come for the children.
The children, most of whom were awaiting adoption by American families, arrived on a military transport plane accompanied by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and were taken to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Tens of thousands of children are believed to have been orphaned in the quake, and their fate remains unclear, aid groups and UN officials say.
The Catholic Church in Miami has announced plans to launch a second ‘Operation Pedro Pan’, offering temporary group homes in South Florida to Haitian children at risk.
In the early 1960s, Catholic Charities took in around 15 thousand Cuban children fleeing communism, hosting them in camps and group homes until they could be reunited with their parents.
Several aid groups who focus on children, however, say every effort should be made to reunite them with relatives.
There are about 200 orphanages in Haiti, but United Nations officials say not all are legitimate.
Some are fronts for traffickers who buy children from their parents and sell them to couples in other countries. “In orphanages in Haiti there are an awful lot of children who are not orphans,” said Christopher de Bono, a Unicef spokesman.
“We remain focused on family unification and must be vigilant not to separate children from relatives in Haiti who are still alive but displaced, or to unknowingly assist criminals who traffic in children in such desperate times,” said Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the department of Homeland Security.