The Plight of Haiti’s Orphans

Three U.S. senators— Kirsten Gillibrand, Mary Landrieu, and James Inhofe—unveiled a bill to facilitate citizenship for roughly 1,000 Haitian orphans whose adoptions by US parents needed to be rushed because of the devastating January 2010 earthquake. A recent article explains that, through humanitarian parole visas, “U.S. 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 U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States.”

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says that “In this moment of great uncertainty, we must clear the gridlock and ensure that these children have the legal protections that they deserve. 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.” The legislation would enable U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to allow parents from the U.S. to apply immediately on their adopted children’s behalf to become legal permanent residents and ultimately qualify for citizenship.

The situation for orphans in Haiti has greatly deteriorated after the earthquake as the numbers of orphans and abandoned children continues to grow. The catastrophic earthquake that left at least 1.3 million of Haiti’s 9 million people homeless was the final push over the edge for families that could barely afford to feed their children before. Now stuck in leaky tents with dwindling aid handouts, aid workers say that some Haitian families are abandoning their children in the hope that rescue organizations will offer them a better life.

As a Carib Daily article explains, many orphans “have been forced to swap school books for pistols, homework for hold-ups and drug-dealing” as they turn to slum gangs to replace “family in a hard-scrabble bid to survive.” After the catastrophe, many new orphans turned to the gang lords for help in some of the poorest slums of Haiti, such as Cité Soleil. Ironically, it’s the Cité’s gang leaders and criminals who now find themselves in the role of savior and spokesmen, pleading for aid. “We need help so that these children don’t become like us, so that they don’t become a danger to society,” said a convict named Ea who said he escaped from Port-au-Prince prison during the earthquake, as did some 4,500 prisoners.

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