July 27, 2010 STATEMENT — LIRS Celebrates the Passage of Legislation in the House of Representatives to Provide Permanency to Vulnerable Haitian Orphans

Press Contact: Stacy Martin, Vice President for Mission Advacement
410-230-2847, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, July 27, 2010–Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act of 2010 (Help HAITI Act) by voice vote. The legislation, H.R. 5283, introduced by Representative Fortenberry (R-NE-1), would provide permanency to more than 1,000 Haitian orphans who were evacuated to the United States after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake to be placed with American families. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) celebrates the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives and urges the Senate to take immediate action to approve the measure.

Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a Senate companion bill, S. 3411, with the support of Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Landrieu (D-LA). To date, Senators Schumer (D-NY), Merkley (D-OR) and Klobuchar (D-MN) have also joined as co-sponsors.

On January 18, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a humanitarian parole policy to allow certain orphaned Haitian children who were already in the adoption process at the time of the earthquake to enter the United Statesto ensure they received the care they needed. At the request of the government of Haiti, on April 14, 2010, DHS stopped accepting new parole requests. During this three month period, more than 1,000 Haitian children arrived to the United States to live with their prospective American adoptive parents. Federal immigration law requires children to wait for two years after being in the custody of the adoptive parents to file to adjust their immigration status. To provide these Haitian children with a greater sense of permanency in the United States, the Haiti HELP Act would waive the two year wait and allow them to immediately apply for U.S.citizenship upon completion of the adoption.

LIRS has an extensive history of working with migrant children and advocating for their protection. For over 30 years, LIRS has partnered with the federal government to serve unaccompanied refugee children admitted to theUnited States and is one of only two national agencies that serves these youth. In 2003, LIRS began working with unaccompanied immigrant children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. LIRS individually assesses these children’s needs to determine durable solutions in the best interest of each child. LIRS has also worked with domestic and international child welfare experts to establish protocols for children who become separated from customary caregivers in times of crisis. A couple of weeks after the earthquake, LIRS briefed Congress on the protection needs of Haitian children, specifically calling for durable solutions that meet the needs of these children.

“These children have been through so much already,” LIRS Director for Children’s Services Olivia Faries noted. “They lost their parents, experienced a very traumatic event, and then moved to a new country where few people speak their language or know their culture. Stability is absolutely what these vulnerable children need.”

Founded in 1939, LIRS has assisted and advocated on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration, and other vulnerable populations. LIRS provides services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners. LIRS is the national agency established by Lutheran churches in the United Statesto carry out the churches’ ministry with uprooted people and is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (LELCA), whose members comprise over 7 million congregants nationwide. LIRS also partners with denominational entities and sister Lutheran organizations such as Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran World Federation, who have been operational inHaitiand theDominican Republicfor many years and have been providing assistance during this period of crisis.

If you have questions about this statement, please contact Eric B. Sigmon, Interim Director for LIRS Washington Office, 202/626-7943, esigmon@lirs.org.

The January 27, 2010 LIRS statement on Haitian children can be found here: http://lirs.org/press-inquiries/press-room/012710statement/

The July 21, 2010 Representative Fortenberry press release on the Help HAITI Act can be found here: http://fortenberry.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3127&Itemid=300032

The January 18, 2010 DHS press release announcing the special humanitarian parole program for certain Haitian orphans can be found here: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=9c22546ade146210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

The April 7, 2010 DHS press release announcing the end of the parole program can be found here: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3e1cd474cb9d7210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD