USCIS Referred Cases Update

13. January, 2012UncategorizedOne comment

With so much confusion surrounding the recent cases sent to USCIS as “not clearly approvable”, we imagine it has left many of you with feelings of uncertainty. We are still navigating through new waters, but have learned a lot more through this process. This post is intended to serve as an update to our families, and to help inform you of the process more clearly.

Initially three of West Sands referred children’s cases were forwarded to USCIS as not clearly approvable. One was approved immediately when the USCIS team was in Addis. The other two were sent to Nairobi, and RFE’s were issued. The two sent to Nairobi were both abandoned children from the same region. The primary reason the U.S. Embassy determined that these cases were “not clearly approvable’, was because the police report lacked the details of the search efforts made to locate the birth parents. Both of these families chose to go to Ethiopia, to be with their children during the process, and to do what they could in country to gather evidence. They also both retained an Immigration attorney to review their cases, and provide a detailed investigation plan. Retaining an Immigration Attorney is not required, however, it did seem to ease the process as she provided the area of focus with a specific “game plan”. With both of these families in country, they were able to complete the investigation with the assistance of our Ethiopia Director and staff. The final response to USCIS was sent after about 20 days. Approvals were issued from USCIS for these children about 10 days later.

During that time, six other West Sands’ referred children were approved by the U.S. Embassy, and two additional children’s cases were forwarded to USCIS Nairobi as “not clearly approvable”. Of the two children’s cases sent to USCIS, one was abandoned, and the other was denied by his father (father whereabouts are also unknown). The abandoned child’s case was from the same area as the 2 previously referred cases.

Since there are many families in the process whose child was abandoned, here is some additional information to help you understand the process. The detailed search efforts are a new request by the U.S., that is why many of the cases submitted recently are not meeting the new requirements. The Police station for each region/area assigns one officer to handle all children and family affairs. Therefore when a child is found abandoned, that officer is “dispatched” or in charge of the investigation. All abandoned children from an area are investigated by the same officer. The police reports for the children filed now, were completed close to a year ago. The U.S. is the only country requiring these details from Ethiopia. When the police officer writes the report he/she can’t project which country the child will be placed with a year down the road, or if that child will even be approved for inter-county adoption. Rather, the officer follows their country’s requirements for completing a report/investigation. This leads to the “missing” information in the reports, as USCIS and the U.S. Embassy sees it.

As your Agency, we will submit all required documents to the U.S. Embassy when filing your I-600. We can only submit official documents prepared by Ethiopian Government agencies. We can request information from these agencies and police departments, but we can’t control the content of the reports. Many times we have to wait for the U.S. to make their requests, so that we can then present such request to the Ethiopian Court, police, etc. The U.S. initially indicated that they would accept video interviews of witnesses as evidence, and encouraged families to have them made. Now they have recently indicated that these videos would not take the place of their investigation. We are currently checking to see if the Embassy is still considering these videos as “evidence”.

This process is complicated for sure, but ultimately West Sands is confident that the children we refer are true Orphans under Ethiopian and U.S. Immigration law. To date, no cases that have been submitted to the U.S. Embassy or USCIS have been denied, and there are no reports of fraud. However, the U.S. Embassy and USCIS are still claiming that they see concerning patterns of fraud, but have not been able to prove any of it.

We will continue to keep you updated as new information becomes available. Adoption is such a leap of faith, and we honor you for strength and patience. Please continue to pray for the families and children affected by this additional delay.

Thank you!