There is an article in the NY Times today:

New Policy Permits Asylum for Battered Women

So in a somewhat tragic turn of affairs, I did not know about this case, nor did I follow it as it was coming down the line for a decision. I used to follow these issues, closely. It’s kind of a mini-sign of how much my life has changed in the last 5-6 years that I had to read about this – and *not* known about the W administration’s stance on it – until I read the NYT.

Anyway, the article made me think about something that DB and I talk about all the time.

There are *so* *many* people who want to come to this country.

I mean, I am not pro-Bush by any stretch, but I can’t imagine that after reading her case, anyone in the Bush administration was untouched by this woman’s story. Her story is sickening. It is every woman’s nightmare in a country where everyone else turned a deaf ear and blind eye – and she, unlike countless other women, actually tried to get help…and was turned down. By everyone.

No, the reason this is a major departure from the Bush Administration – the reason that the Bush Administration denied classifying this woman as needing political asylum – is that it might open the floodgates, so to speak, of millions (yes, probably millions) of women in similar situations.

And now we’ve done it.

Hallelujah!

So I got to thinking: I’ve been trying to figure out how best to say this, and I haven’t really had the ability to frame this message in anything other than a straight-up “This is bad because…” or “This is good because…” in quite some time; I’ve been busy. But I have been very involved in adoption issues for a while, despite not having adopted (we seem to be on the long-ass time horizon for that one) and recently, I’ve gotten more involved. So here is my message:

Yes, there are people lining up to come into America.

Yes, there are people who came here, who *are* here, who maybe came to these shores not-so-legally.

But just because *they* want to come here, doesn’t mean that *everyone* wants to come here.

That is an important point. Think about it. I assume Tahiti (I know nothing about Tahiti) is a fabulous paradise place, but WHAT IF you don’t want to go to Tahiti? Should we just assume that because TAHITI *might be* great for you, you should move there? Immediately? Become a Tahitian?

No.

And if you ended up in Tahiti, and really, you were more of a snow-bunny-type, or something (go with me here, people), would you want to lose every aspect of your identity as an American in your move to Tahiti? If you *moved* to Tahiti, would you want documents saying that you were born a Tahitian, not an American?

Probably not.

And more than that, it would be a lie. You were born an American, on U.S. soil, whether you liked it here or not. And you moved to Tahiti, and became a naturalized Tahitian, because *that* is what happened.

That is the truth.

There are two adoption-related bills proposed in Congress. I believe – and I know others believe – that they more harm international adoption than they help. They are a threat to transparent, ethical adoption.

They assume that *every* kid wants to be a Tahitian. Or an American.

So to speak.

The first bill is the FACE Act, or HR 3110/S 1359. This act conveys citizenship to children adopted overseas retroactive to birth. It eliminates the visa process, so there is very little investigative clout to investigate whether a child referred for adoption is actually legally freed for adoption. By the time this investigation takes place, it is potentially already too late: the child is adopted, the legal child of American citizens, and there is considerable political will to approve such a petition – and this time, it is not for a visa, but for a passport.

Citizenship conferred retroactive to birth means that adoptees might not be able to seek dual citizenship when they are older. As infants or toddlers – they will relinquish the right to own land in their birth country.

Actually, that right will be relinquished for them. By this bill.

It is cutting off ties to birth culture and country which are meaningful, and important, and possibly the only thing the adoptee has in leaving his/her birth country.

(Remember: Tahiti. Leaving America for Tahiti. You are from Alaska. And now we’re saying that you can’t even go back and own property in Alaska when you are old enough to decide that for yourself.)

And really, the truth is that the FACE Act, if enacted, will slow down the process of adoption for prospective parents: I think I can speak to this in a very personal way. DB works for the federal government. To change pieces of paper around, and move staff around from one office to the other (moving people from one government body to the other, to meet the requirements of this law) (don’t ask me how I know this) – but to CHANGE PIECES OF PAPER, do you know how long it takes?

MONTHS, people. MONTHS.

The process will take MONTHS to sort out.

The government is *not* *slick*.

Bill 2: The Families for Orphans Act (HR 3070; I don’t know what the bill number is in the Senate yet)

(I really should have thought more about which tropical island I used in this analogy. Is Tahiti a nice place? If it’s not, take this to mean: I meant that Tahiti was a glorious, paradise-like place. 365/24/7. OK?)

This bill *sounds* good. I’ll give it that. It really does *sound* phenomenal.

But it isn’t.

It stipulates that foreign countries can have American debt relief and foreign aid IF THEY ACQUIESCE to having an international adoption program.

(There is already significant aid that accompanies any international adoption program. Do we really need to provide incentives to sending countries?)

In fact, it mirrors another existing bill (PL-109-95) whose mandate *is* finding permanent placements for kids in need of them. PL 109-95 is required to provide yearly report to Congress on the state of USG children’s programs.

PL 109-95 is unfunded.

PL 109-95 does not explicitly delineate inter-country adoption as an option for kids in need of homes.

FFOA does.

And although FFOA proponents will say that this is *not* an adoption bill, really?

Since it mirrors the PL 109-95 so nicely, save for the requirement that countries open up for adoption?

It is.

And it should not be. America should not be the child welfare police of the world. In fact, what status do WE have in telling other countries how to treat their children?!?

We haven’t even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child!

Who on EARTH would want to listen to us? And why should they?!?

And why can’t we work with other countries in formulating a culturally relevant, child welfare plan…a la PL 109-95?

So here, I leave you with this thought:

Tahiti may be fabulous, and you may never ever want to leave.

America may really suck, and you might want to get the hell out of Dodge to escape it.

But *you*, my friends, are old enough to speak up. Ditto the women seeking asylum trying to come into this country: old enough to make decisions about where to live, when to move, and how to do it (or at least old enough to verbalize the choice).

Young adoptees: not so much.

Don’t we owe it to them to not assume one country is *better* than the other? To assume that they are here, we are going to do the very best for them, and we are going to advocate, advocate, advocate to retain *all* of their rights? To say, “We are going to work our butts off to ensure that you are considered an American citizen the moment you touch American soil, but we are still going to celebrate your first heritage. Your first national allegiance. We want to celebrate the culture and the family from which you emerged”?

To ensure that their birth culture is appreciated and respected? Ie, acknowledge that America might have some challenges, but Tahiti has other challenges, too? Neither is one “better” or “worse”, necessarily, but different.

Yes, I thought so.

For more information, you can go to Ethica.

And if you agree with me, please, please speak up. Join the Facebook group (linked on the Ethica website). Write your congressional representatives. Share your concerns with them.

Talk to them about Tahiti.

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