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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Children Airlifted To US May Not Be Orphans

Children Airlifted To US May Not Be Orphans

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Wednesday, 24 February 2010 13:45
Twelve Haitian children, airlifted to the US, may not actually be orphans, reports Ginger Thompson for the New York Times. Fifty-four Haitian children were airlifted to Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the earthquake, "organized by Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and supported by top Obama administration officials." The Times reports:
But for 12 of the children, last month’s airlift transported them from one uncertain predicament to another. As it turns out, those children — between 11 months and 10 years old — were not in the process of being adopted, might not all even be orphans and are living in a juvenile care center here while the authorities determine whether they have relatives in Haiti who are able to take care of them.
Although everyone says they had only the best intentions, it is particularly controversial because of the 10 Americans who were detained for trying to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic. It turned out many of those children were not in fact orphans.

Most of the 54 children were already in the process of being adopted, but the women who were caring for them would not leave Haiti without the 12 children who did not have the proper paperwork. Gov. Rendell then used his high level contacts to secure the travel of all 54 children. The Times continues:
He [Rendell] and Representative Jason Altmire, another Democrat who was also participating in the mission, began contacting everyone they thought could help back in Washington, including Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, Huma M. Abedin, a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Pennsylvania’s two senators, Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, both Democrats.

Denis McDonough, the president’s deputy national security adviser, who happened to be at the Port-au-Prince airport trying to fly home that day, was also enlisted to help.

Mr. Altmire recalled getting one or two more children approved with nearly every phone call. Mr. McDonough got a message on his BlackBerry granting the children authority to come to the United States. And five and a half emotionally exhilarating hours later, most of the group was on its way to Pittsburgh.
A senior State Department official told the Times:
“This wasn’t supposed to happen this way,” said one senior State Department official, who like others asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly about the episode. “But it’s not as if it was a normal day in Haiti, either.”
Whether or not Haitian government officials approved of the move is less clear, according to the article:
Ambassador Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s envoy to the United States, said he refused to approve Governor Rendell’s request to remove children from the country who were not already in the adoption pipeline. But an aide to Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the Haitian government accepted assurances from Mr. Rendell and American officials that the children would be well cared for in the United States. The adviser, Alice Blanchet, said of the governor, “I have no reason to second guess his intentions.”

Tags: airlift | orphans

 

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