USCIS complacency surrounding alleged fraud in exporting Ethiopian children

January 9, 2012

From Ethiomedia:

Author: Yosef Yacob

Despite the documented facts demonstrating fraud and misrepresentation, the unsettling status quo persists with superficial changes by the USCIS and the Department of State devoid of any effective protocols to ferret out the suspected racketeers in the adoption of Ethiopian children by good intentioned Americans.  While both USCIS and Department of State acknowledge patterns that “…suggest possible malfeasance or unethical behavior in some cases”, according to the USCIS “…no cases from Ethiopia have been denied based on findings of fraud, and in fact, the vast majority of cases are approved”.

Is the Ethiopian community imagining fraud where none exists, is the international media fabricating events, is the video tape evidence of admissions, deceptions and misrepresentations by perpetrators fabricated, is the finding of wide spread fraud by the Ethiopian government insincere, or is one expected to ignore the distress echoed by American ethicists, Ethiopian mothers, the adoptees, and American adoptive parents as fictitious?

Not withstanding the surrounding significant moral, legal, ethical, legal, and social issues and the recurring plea for notice by the Ethiopian intellectual and faith communities, what is worrisome is the seeming complacency by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service and the State Department.

Ostensibly, rather than a serious effort to double means to eliminate the fraudulent schemes, the USCIS and State Department seem to trivialize the repeated allegations of adoption scams thus further clouding the integrity and transparency of the adoption process in Ethiopia. Namely, by discounting repeated allegation(s) by media and adoption and legal professionals and investigators of adoption agencies “… falsifying documents of children with biological parents, in collaboration with orphanages involved in illegal acts to show that they are abandoned and using these documents to obtain final court decision for international adoption.”

Institutional Response

Glancing at the documented response, one is strained not to conclude that foremost, to the State Department and the USCIS, is the fast processing of adoption petitions and clearing backlogs based upon pro-forma investigation or “Adjudications”. Sadly, it appears that the underlying social, legal, ethical, moral, and national security implications and the welfare and best interest of the children, their natural parents, and innocent adoptive parents, have been deemed tolerable collateral casualties by both the Ethiopian and American Governments.

According to the USCIS the agency is committed to working “…closely with the Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders to preserve and protect this valuable program, while also seeking to improve safeguards and ensure the program’s integrity…and transparency”.

Yet, despite disturbing allegations and evidence, the marching order by the principal agency has been primarily focused on assuring compliance with “documentary” and bureaucratic requirements to “establish the relationship”, with minimal inconvenience to the adoptive parents, and to facilitate fast processing rather than invest in robustly investigating the propriety of the adoptions.

As a result, allegations of perceived child trafficking, child abuse and recently publicized murder of an Ethiopian child by unfit adoptive parents continues to mount and fuels the ire of the Ethiopian community both in Diaspora and at home. Whether based upon fact or invention, it is widely believed by the legal and social work community in Ethiopia that adoptions continue unabated even in cases involving “… many illegal acts that are still being investigated.”

The alarm seems to have fallen on deaf ears, inviting some writers to characterize the present state of affairs as a legally sanctioned export scheme of Ethiopian children to generate needed foreign exchange. The purchase price varying depending on brokerage fees, legal fees, fees to the biological parent’s or “guardians,” court fees, legal fees, all paid in the form of US dollars to secure the right to take the child as one’s own…

The bureaucrats in their wisdom have naively devised that in certain cases it may be necessary to interview the “orphan child’s” birth parent(s) [contradiction] or guardian, or the individual who “found an abandoned child”, to resolve errors or discrepancies discovered in the case file to make an evidentiary determination concerning the child’s “orphan status”.

Thus, the troubled are assured that in the absence of the parents and relatives who are without means in the first instance, to travel to the Ethiopian capital, adoption decisions will be based upon the interviews of individuals who inexplicably “found” the “orphan” child, representatives of the allegedly corrupt adoption agencies and brokers, finders and facilitators, who have a stake in the “timely and efficient” processing of the adoption.

Moreover, the anxious are guaranteed that USCIS Adjudicators based in Nairobi, without demonstrated knowledge of Ethiopian customs, language, culture, norms, geography, history, ethnology, and facts surrounding the adoption scams or dependable contacts, [outside the Embassy compounds, with the faith, bro bono legal, human rights civil, and intellectual communities] in Ethiopian society are empowered to make these crucial final determinations conceivably on the basis of sanitized and fraudulent documents furnished by those with vested interests or alleged to be the very perpetrators of the scams…

Continuing to focus on clearing backlogs by sending the least experienced and skilled adjudicators could result in deleterious outcomes for these children, their families as well as continue to erode the standing and image of the United States. To contrive proper policies and implement the protective protocols and procedures requires more than a fleeting familiarity with the countries and surrounding norms and demands respectful engagement and partnership with their civil society.

The State Department and the USCIS have an enviable and unique opportunity to maximize the Service of their experienced native adjudicators and to competently attend to the allegations with deserved solemnity and care. Loathing the existing organizational talent in favor of facilitating speedy and efficient processing of adoption cases by those who are not familiar with the terrain on the basis of “documentary evidence” alone from remote locations is foolish and will induce predictable undesired long-term cost.

Access the full article here.

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