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Contact your Senator

I've spoken to many of my friends who've asked about how my adoption is going about a new process called the PAIR process that the USCIS has just implemented in Ethiopian adoptions.  This process makes the child become a US citizen before the adoption is final.  In the past, this paperwork for citizenship was done after the child was brought home by the family.  We all know there is already mounds of paperwork that is done to get the child's adoption finalized.

This extra step and paperwork that the USCIS has added by adding the PAIR process is, in my opinion unnecessary and actually harmful for the child.  The process did not add any security safeguards to either the US or to the child.  The only thing it has added is the fact that the child will now spend an additional 2 to 4 months waiting in their orphanage before they are allowed to join their new family in a home.

2 to 4 months is a huge deal for a baby!  It is harmful for the older children to.  This extra time is added to the time after their court date and before they are approved to travel home.  Imagine being a kindergartner sitting in your orphanage for an additional 3 months with pictures of your new family and new home in your hand.  That would seem like eternity to a 5 year old.

You can do something to help.  Contact your senator on these children's behalf.

Here is the website for finding you US Senator's contact information.

Below is the letter you can copy and paste into your contact form.

Thank you for your support,
Jennifer Lane

PAIR Letter:

The Honorable (senator)

I am writing concerning a recent decision made by USCIS in the matter of adoptions from Ethiopia. This decision is causing unnecessary delays and will force children to remain in institutionalized care much longer than necessary. With very young children, this can easily mean that they spend twice as much time in institutionalized care rather than in the homes and arms of their adoptive family. Older children will go through additional painful months of waiting, knowing that it is only paperwork and needless bureaucracy delaying them from starting their new life with a family they eagerly look forward to joining. Delays of this sort should not be treated with a se la vie attitude. It is well known and researched that institutionalized care, even when done well, puts children at risk for malnutrition, developmental delays (mental and physical), neglect, abuse, long-term psychological problems, and attachment disorders (North American Council on Adoptable Children: Research on Institutional Care of Vulnerable Children). Everybody agrees that institutionalized care is a sad necessity. Do our public servants really think it a good idea to keep children in institutionalized care longer than necessary? With over 1500 Ethiopian children adopted each year by US families, a low estimate shows that this change will result in children spending an additional 250 years in institutional care each and every year. Who has made this terrible decision?

The National Benefits Center (of USCIS) has instated a mandatory Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) process. The work of USCIS to determine whether a child legally meets the US standards of an adoptable orphan is obviously good and necessary, but this particular change does nothing except introduce further red tape and radically slow the process. No additional safeguards have been added to the process. In the end, adoptive families still just file an I-600 application and wait for an I-604 investigation of orphan status to be completed. Currently the US embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia makes it through this process in a matter of weeks. However, when PAIR is instituted, it is expected to take an additional 2-4 months. 

This additional time is being added after the child has already been referred to a family, and both the family and child are eagerly waiting to be joined. This is completely unacceptable. The only possible justification for introducing such a delay is if it necessary to protect against child trafficking and illicit adoptions. Either USCIS should admit that they were failing in this regard under the previous process, or they should change back to the previous process. Let’s stop talking about doing what’s best for the children, and actually do what’s best for them. Letting bureaucrats make changes in order to simplify their job at the expense of the children is neither good domestic nor foreign policy. The significant delay in the new process is unacceptable. It is bad for the children who are future US citizens, bad for the adoptive families who pay USCIS to do their work in a timely matter, and bad for adoption agencies that now face added cost and resources to care for and house children longer—a cost which will inevitably be passed on to the adoptive family.

As my senator, I urge you to hold the USCIS and the National Benefits Center accountable to return to the former speed, processing the I-600 and I-604 in a matter of weeks—not months.  Please do your part to defend these children and their parents, your constituents.