Guatemala: 2007

December 21, 2007

Through recent dialogue with the Guatemalan government, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Congress and UNICEF, Joint Council is now highly confident that Guatemalan adoption cases currently in-process will proceed to finalization under the current notarial process. Please click here to view the complete Joint Council assessment, which includes the indicators leading to this conclusion, as well as a statement by USCIS in Guatemala.

December 14, 2007

During the week of December 3rd, Joint Council strongly advocated with key stakeholders for a positive resolution to the grandfather clause (Article 56 of Decree 77-2007). As part of our call to both the Guatemalan administration and Congress to clearly define a ‘grandfathered case’, Joint Council submitted a definition to the Guatemalan Congress, the Berger administration and the U.S. Department of State. In addition, we educated members of the U.S. Congress on this critical issue.

As part of our advocacy, Joint Council fully supports the following definition and process.

A case would be eligible for the grandfather status provided that by December 31st 2007 the case had:

  • a Power of Attorney (POA),
  • the POA was registered with the Supreme Court,
  • the Acta de Requerimiento had been issued
  • The case would be officially grandfathered upon its registration with the Central Authority during a 30 day period beginning December 31, 2007. The 30 day period represents 30 business days.
  • Cases already “in” PGN (cases where an Aviso has been issued) would be considered to be automatically registered with the Central Authority thereby negating the need for a separate and additional act of registration.
  • Recognizing that PGN is registered with The Hague as a competent authority, all eligible cases would be registered with the Central Authority via the PGN.

Through our ongoing dialogue with the Guatemalan government and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), it is our understanding that the key stakeholders including DOS are not moving towards a definition that would limit the grandfathered cases to only those cases that are “in” PGN by December 30, 2007 (a full and complete file submitted to PGN for review). There appears to be a growing agreement, including a draft legal opinion by PGN, with the definition outlined by Joint Council. While Joint Council is cautiously optimistic that this type of a grandfather definition will be officially sanctioned, we also believe that we must remain diligent in our review, assessment and advocacy.

Joint Council does remain concerned that the recent elections have left a void in leadership within the Guatemalan government. As a result, obtaining a clear ruling from a competent authority is increasingly difficult. We also have concerns as to the registering of cases with the Central Authority, given that no such authority will exist until sometime in mid-January, at the earliest.

Please know that Joint Council, as previously stated, will remain diligent in its pursuit of every child’s right to a permanent, safe and loving family. We are intimately involved in the process in Guatemala and are committed to ensuring that all children who have been referred to a family will be able to have their adoption completed. As we see the Guatemala 5000 through to a successful completion, Joint Council will continue its engagement with a goal of seeing the functional implementation of the new adoption law.

December 7, 2007

As part of the Joint Council Guatemala 5000 Initiative and our ongoing assessment of the situation in Guatemala, we now have considerable concerns regarding the processing and completion of all transition cases. We call on the Guatemalan Congress and the Berger administration to publicly clarify the process by which the adoption of those children who have been referred to a family will be completed.

As previously announced, the Guatemalan Congress hopes to review and vote on Bill # 3735 on December 11, 2007. It is the assessment of Joint Council that Article 56 of Bill # 3735 could in effect, preclude the completion of in-process adoptions under current law. Article 56 states that all pending cases must register with the Central Authority within 30 days. Given that the 3735 also requires the creation of a new entity as the Central Authority, we express our concern that a new entity may not be created with sufficient time to allow for the registration. Joint Council calls on the Guatemalan Congress to amend Article 56 to clearly state the process by which registration will occur. It is our recommendation that Article 56 permit and require all adoptions with Powers of Attorney as of December 30, 2007 to be registered with the PGN by January 31, 2008 as a condition for continuing the adoption process under current law.

In the event the Guatemalan Congress does not vote or pass Bill # 3735, Joint Council calls on the Berger administration to issue a similar clarification of the process by which the government will process all pending adoption cases. Joint Council urges the administration to permit and require all adoptions with Powers of Attorney as of December 30, 2007 to be registered with the PGN by January 31, 2008 as a condition for continuing the adoption process under current law.

It is Joint Council’s understanding that discussion by many stakeholders include a plan to ‘grandfather’ only those adoptions which have been registered with PGN by December 31, 2007. This requirement is overly restrictive, severely limits a child’s legal access to the process (50% of Guatemala’s courts are in recess through January 15), needlessly penalizes those children who are in the abandonment system and is clearly not in the best interest of children.

Joint Council also calls on the United States government via Congress and the Department of State to protect the rights of children in need by assisting in the creation of a sound transition policy for all pending adoptions.

As part of our continuing Guatemala 5000 Initiative, Joint Council has requested a meeting with Guatemalan President-Elect Alvaro Colom. Joint Council will strongly urge the new administration to provide sufficient protections for all of Guatemala’s children while continuing to promote a child’s right to a safe, permanent and loving family.

December 3, 2007

Earlier this week a new adoption law was introduced, through a first and second reading, into the Guatemalan Congress. A final reading, review and vote, including possible amendments is currently scheduled for Tuesday, December 4, 2007. While many of the laws articles remain in discussion, the primary issue appears to be the date the Convention enters into force; January 1, 2008 vs. April 30, 2008.

Joint Council continues to dialogue with all stakeholders including members of the Guatemalan Congress and U.S. Department of State. Most recently Joint Council has briefed the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and members of the U.S. Congress on the issue surrounding the passage of this vitally important law.

November 26, 2007

The expected introduction, reading and vote on an adoption law into the Guatemala Congress this week will not take place. Joint Council has received reports that various protests outside of the Supreme Court, National Palace and Congress has resulted in a delay in the introduction. Apparently there are now concerns that President Berger may veto the bill if passed. It is our understanding that members of the Guatemalan Congress have requested a meeting with the Berger administration to ensure that if passed, President Berger will not veto the legislation.

Joint Council will continue advocate for the passage of an adoption law that is functional, compliant and in the best interest of Guatemalan children. Joint Council will post updates on the progress of the legislation early next week.

November 12, 2007

The new legislation announced by Guatemalan Congressmen earlier this week has caused many potential adoptive parents and adoption service providers to reconsider the issue of referrals. Joint Council has also revisited the issue through consultation with the Guatemala Caucus Co-Chairs, members of the Board of Directors and adoption services providers, among others.

While many positive indicators exist regarding the state of intercountry adoptions from Guatemala, many uncertainties remain. To date,

- the Berger administration has not announced a transparent process by which existing cases will be processed,

- the Berger administration has indicated that all adoption cased filed post-December 31, 2007 must be processed according to Convention standards,

- the Guatemalan Congress has not passed any adoption legislation

- based on information provided by the Guatemalan government, both USDOS and USCIS have indicated that both existing and new adoption cases cannot be processed without approval from PGN after December 31, 2007.

While we continue to work with our colleagues in Guatemala toward a swift and positive resolution, we also recognize that as of today, the continuation of Guatemalan intercountry adoption remains uncertain.

Given the lack of substantive action on the part of the Berger administration or the Guatemalan Congress, and in consideration of the announcement by DOS/USCIS, Joint Council continues to strongly urge all adoption service providers to reassess any decision to begin issuing referrals. To date, we have not altered the recommendation issued on September 27, 2007.

We also recognize that some outside of the Joint Council community and a few within our community continue to issue referrals and accept new applications. It should be noted by all that the vast majority of Joint Council agencies have made the decision to refrain from issuing referrals or accepting new applications. Joint Council applauds and supports this decision. We continue to urge all, both within and outside of our community, to join the overwhelming majority of adoption service providers in this decision.

November 7, 2007

Joint Council has continued to advocate for a rational and child centric transition to the Hague Convention in Guatemala. During our recent presentation at the Adoption Ethics & Accountability Conference in Washington, D.C., Joint Council called for the completion of adoptions in-process, the implementation of the Conventions core elements, an effective implementation date of April 2008 and funding for capacity building. We have continued to work with our colleagues in Guatemala along with members of the Guatemalan Congress in developing a functional child welfare system.

We can now report that members of the Guatemalan Congress, including numerous party chiefs, have submitted a new legislative proposal which;

- Includes a strong ‘grandfather’ clause,

- Designates April 30, 2008 as the effective implementation date of the Convention,

- Allocates $5 million Quetzales ($650,000 USD) for the creation of the Central Authority

- Allocates a percentage of the total government budget for child welfare services

- Creates a new government entity to act as the Central Authority in Guatemala,

- Provides for private non-profit accredited entities to provide services to children,

- Allows single potential adoptive parents to apply for adoption,

- Creates a functional process by which children can find a permanent, safe and loving family.

The new legislation is scheduled to be introduced to Congress early next week. In line with our mission of advocating for the right of each child to a permanent family, Joint Council will continue to work with our colleagues in Guatemala towards a positive and child centric implementation of the Convention.

October 12, 2007

Joint Council continues to dialogue directly with President Berger’s office. Due to this ongoing conversation, we will post an update on Guatemala 5000 on October 15 rather than today as was previously indicated to the Membership.

September 27, 2007

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services and the National Council for Adoption have issued a press release responding to the announced changes in Guatemalan adoptions by the U.S. Department of State.

September 5, 2007

With the cooperation and support of the Joint Council Guatemala Caucus, a letter has been issued to President Berger regarding our significant concerns over the recent raid of Casa Quivera. Joint Council called for an immediate halt to such raids, a transparent accounting of all children and the prompt resolution of each case.

Joint Council has also issued an update recommending that all adoption service providers reassess their Guatemala programming given the recent activities in Guatemala and the impact of the Hague convention.

August 2, 2007

Joint Council just received confirmation during a call with Assistant Secretary Maura Harty that the U.S. Embassy will require a second DNA test effective August 6, 2007. The test will be used to verify that the adopted child is the same child matched at the commencement of the adoption process with the birth parent. This new procedure will apply to adoption cases finalized by Guatemalan authorities and submitted to the Embassy on or after Monday, August 6th.

June 13, 2007

The U.S. Department of State has issued a statement on the status of intercountry adoption and the Hague Convention in Guatemala.

May 23, 2007

Joint Council is pleased to report that on Tuesday, May 22nd, the Guatemalan Congress held a special session during which the Hague Convention was reaffirmed. The reaffirmation included an amendment creating an effective date of January 1, 2008. We remain confident that the reaffirmation will set the stage for a final resolution to the implementation of the Hague Convention in Guatemala.

May 17, 2007

Joint Council is pleased to offer an English translation of Guatemalan Legislative Proposal # 3635, which was written by a coalition of Guatemalan congressmen meant to address the requirements of the Hague Convention. It is our understanding that the English version of Guatemalan Legislative Proposal # 3635 presented below is accurate.

May 16, 2007

The U.S. Department of State has issued a statement regarding Guatemala, the Hague Convention, and U.S. law. The statement addresses how the United States is finalizing preparations to fully implement the Hague Adoption Convention, and how the United States will not be able to continue processing intercountry adoptions of children from Guatemala after the Convention has been fully implemented in the United States, unless the Government of Guatemala institutes reforms to meet its obligations under the Convention. The statement from the U.S. Department of States is intended to set forth some of the reasons why the Convention will not allow the United States to continue to process adoptions in Guatemala under its current system after the Convention goes into force for the U.S.

May 10, 2007

Joint Council has confirmed that the Guatemalan Congress passed the first reading of the reaffirmation of the Hague Convention and corresponding amendments on Tuesday, May 8th. On May 9th the Guatemalan Congress passed the second reading, with the third and final passage expected Tuesday, May 15th. To view Iniciativa 3339, the Guatemalan reaffirmation of the Hague, in Spanish please click here.

May 2, 2007

As part of Joint Council’s International Relations Initiative, Tom DiFilipo, President & CEO, traveled to Guatemala the week of April 22-26, 2007. Meetings were conducted with UNICEF, representatives from the United States Department of State, as well as members of the Guatemalan Congress.

March 20, 2007

The United States Department of State has issued the following notice regarding a change in the processing of “Pink Slips” by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala:

“Due to the increased volume of workload, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City will no longer be able to issue the appointment letters (“Pink Slips”) the same day as the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) office’s adjudication of the final documents. “Pink Slips” will now be issued the next business day, Monday through Thursday, after the Consular Section gets the final documents from DHS/USCIS.”

March 16, 2007

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services has issued a press release regarding recent happenings in Guatemalan adoption.

March 15, 2007

The U.S. Department of State issued the following frequently asked questions for prospective adoption parents of Guatemalan children.

March 8, 2007

Due to technical difficulties, USCIS Guatemala have been unable to respond to any inquiries since last Friday, March 2nd. ALL emails sent to guatemala.adoptions@dhs.gov have been saved and will be fully retrieved. Joint Council has been assured that USCIS Guatemala is working diligently to make the email functional again and has said that ALL inquiries will be responded to once the problem is rectified.

February 22, 2007

The following notice on Guatemalan Adoptions has been posted on the U.S. State Department’s website. The U.S. Department of State is strongly urging American prospective adoptive parents contemplating pursuing adoptions in Guatemala to carefully consider their options at this time.

Guatemala Status of Intercountry Adoptions (U.S. Department of State)

In light of a number of problems with Guatemala’s intercountry adoption process, the U.S. Department of State strongly cautions American prospective adoptive parents contemplating pursuing adoptions in Guatemala to carefully consider their options at this time. The arrest in the United States of a well-known adoption facilitator as well as concern about unethical behavior and practices by others involved with adoptions in Guatemala indicate that the adoption process in Guatemala is not adequately protecting all children.

In its investigation related to the arrest of the adoption facilitator mentioned above, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have found evidence of the smuggling into the United States of Guatemalan children who had been candidates for adoption. They have also found evidence of fraudulent documents concerning adoption and visa status, and misrepresentation of the health condition of children involved.

Separately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Guatemala has denied adoption visa petitions for many reasons indicating wrong and unethical practices in Guatemala. These include cases where the purported biological mother of a child is not the true biological mother but an impostor and cases where the biological parent or parents have been deceived and there has been no true relinquishment of parental rights.

Activity of this nature is against U.S. law and also counter to the principles of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which the United States will join this year.

The adoption situation in Guatemala is volatile and unpredictable. The United States, because of ongoing investigations that affect adoption cases, may be unable to process cases quickly and is likely to review all pending cases with more scrutiny. More detailed investigations may be warranted to determine that a child is truly eligible for adoption as an orphan, that any prospective adoptive parent(s) are eligible and suitable to adopt, and that the child is ultimately placed in the custody of parents who have been accurately identified and evaluated through the home study and petition process.

The U.S. Government supports adoption reform efforts in Guatemala and is working closely with the Government of Guatemala to help encourage the implementation of reforms to protect children in the intercountry adoption process. The U.S. Government also supports Guatemalan Government efforts to implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and establish new case-processing procedures and an appropriate transition mechanism to the good practices of the Convention.

February 07, 2007

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala announced that it does not plan to schedule immigrant visa interview appointments for adopted Guatemalan children March 18 – 21, 2007 during the Annual InterAmerican Development Bank Governors Assembly, which will be held in Guatemala. U.S. Embassy Guatemala expects that final adoption cases sent to the Consular Section from the DHS/USCIS office the week of March 12 through March 16, will be issued “Pink Slips” and scheduled for immigrant visa appointments the week of March 26 through March 30, 2007.

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