Update on Why US Immigration is refusing to grant our daughter Hannah Daniel US Citizenship resulting in her being a “Stateless Person without a Country on September 3, 2011
As most of our friends know Deirdre and I live as American expats in Chengdu China. Last year, like many other Americans, we finalized the adoption of our daughter on April 24, 2010. It was with great relief and excitement when we completed our adoption, and we thought things were finally finished….little did we know the NIGHTMARE (US Immigration) would that .
The facts as they now stand are that as of September 3, 2011 when Hannah’s Chinese Passport expires, Hannah while we will continue to be Hannah’s family, she will be a little girl without a country. This is because the US Government will not give her citizenship until April 24, 2012. This is an issue that I lay directly at the feet of DHS-USCIS (US Immigration) as it was their directives that caused this. Let me be perfectly clear on this: THIS IS A PROBLEM CREATED BY THE DHS-USCIS and HAS NOT been created by the Chinese Government. The Chinese Government has acted appropriately through this process.
This is a complex issue and is related to the US Implementation of The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, however we will try to keep it as simple as possible and summarize a lot of the details.
Almost Five years ago, Deirdre and I started fostering Hannah here in China; from the start, it has been our intent to adopt her. When we decided to foster Hannah, we were able to get Hannah’s Chinese Passport along with a custody letter that would allow us to travel with Hannah to the US. Hannah has lived with us continuously since that time and has been an integrated part of our family. Hannah has traveled with us to the US on multiple occasions (with a B-1 tourist visa that clearly reflect us as the foster parents) as well as other places like Cambodia. We have been responsible for her total welfare including feeding, clothing, and education, healthcare and raising her during this time. Hannah has only known Deirdre and I as her parents as she was just months old when we started fostering her. While it was great to have her Chinese passport before we adopted her, because she was a child, her passport was only valid for 5 years and set to expire on September 3, 2011.
Deirdre and I immediately started the adoption process and filed all of our paperwork and received advance approval from USCIS on November 20, 2007; the initial approval was only good for 18 months. We immediately filed all of our paperwork with the Chinese Government, but because of the Olympics, all adoption paperwork was slowed down, and we did not receive notification for approval to adopt until February 25, 2010.
Now here is where it starts to get real messy and in fairness, part of it is our fault. When we received our notice from the Chinese Government that we had been approved for our adoption, we immediately reviewed our paperwork, and realized that we had let the I-171H expire; this was the mistake that we made. Because of this, I immediately emailed the US Immigration Office in Beijing:
“From: Bart Daniel [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, March 01, 2010 11:59 AM
To: CIS, DHS Beijing
Subject: Questions on I-600A
My wife (Deirdre Delaney Daniel) and I(Bartow David Daniel III) applied for a I-600A in 2007 and received our I-171H with an completion of advanced processing date of November 11, 2007; unfortunately we let it expire. On Friday, we received our “Letter of Seeking Confirmation” from CCAA. What steps do we need to take to update our I-600A?
That afternoon, we received the following reply from USCIS- Beijing:
“From: CIS, DHS Beijing [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, March 01, 2010 3:18 PM
Subject: RE: Questions on I-600A
Please contact the CCAA if they ask you to update your I-600A.
USCIS, Beijing China
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600
Now all of us operate from the perspective that if you ask the government a question, and you act according to what they tell you, everything will be okay. Right? WRONG!!!!
Because the Chinese Government never asked us for an updated I-600 / I-171H, based on the guidance from DHS-USCIS, we completed her adoption; immediately we contacted USCIS and The Adoption Unit of US Consulate in Guangzhou and asked them for the next steps. It was at this point AFTER we had completed the adoption, that we were informed that because we had let the approval expire, Hannah could not get her citizenship.
Over the next six months Deirdre and I spent countless hours asking every conceivable office what we need to do; in many cases USCIS would not even bother to return our emails. Finally, the US Consulate’s Adoption Unit (State Department) in Guangzhou got involved and suggested that we should file a petition with USCIS to have Hannah classified as an immediate relative, and then we could get her US Citizenship. The qualification for this is that Hannah had to be in our “legal custody” for two years before the petition could be successful. While the State Department was clear that USCIS was the one to make the final determination, the State Department did review our initial custody letter from the Orphanage in 2006, and in their opinion that constituted legal custody; since Hannah had lived with us continuously since September 2006 and we had been responsible for all aspects of her care, everyone seemed to agree that this was the route to go. On November 19, 2010 we filed this petition with DHS-USCIS in Beijing.
On November 23, 2010 I received a phone call from the Field Director of the Beijing USCIS Office; he was extremely apologetic and admitted that we were in this position because of the email that we had received from his office; quite frankly I was shocked and stunned as this was the first time that USCIS has ever admitted it was wrong. He also told us that if we had been given the proper guidance in the email before the adoption, we could have gotten and expedited approval where this would never had been an issue. He then said that there was a way that we could try to get Hannah’s Citizenship while she was in the US for Christmas and suggested that we try a direct citizenship approach, because he thought that we would have a good case for it; the direct citizenship approach also requires a two year custody requirement, but it would allow us to immediately get Hannah her citizenship.. He also said that he would put a “mailroom hold” on our application until we instructed him to file it. We went back to the US for Christmas, consulted an Immigration Attorney and submitted this application at the Kansas City Field Office for USCIS. The adjudicating officer told us that she could not approve it, because they would not consider us having legal custody until the date of the adoption April 24, 2010, and therefore would not approve the application until April 24, 2012.
As we have explained to the USCIS at every step, we are under a deadline, because Hannah’s passport expires this coming September, and it would be difficult for us to renew her passport. This last week Deirdre attempted to get Hannah’s passport renewed and found out it was impossible to do so; as far as the Chinese government is concerned, she should now be a US Citizen. When we found out that it was impossible for us to renew her passport, we started looking for different options and yesterday I contacted the Field Director for the Beijing USCIS and asked him to go ahead and process the original petition. The Field Director emailed me back, told me that he had been reassigned back to the States, and that he would ask his colleagues to go ahead and process this petition. Today I received an email telling me that the petition had been processed LAST MONTH and had been denied.
Our Daughter Hannah is caught in a position where after September 3, 2011, she will no longer be able to have a valid passport of any country; in effect she will be a Stateless person. This is particularly meaningful for us because it means that after September 3rd she will be unable to travel and will be unable to leave China. Deirdre and I understand that immigration is a very sensitive and political topic in the US right now, but it hurts us to see this happen to our daughter, especially when the overwhelming Congressional Intent seems to be that she is entitled to citizenship. All of this and the inflexibility of DHS-USCIS have put our family in jeopardy.
Because Hannah will be unable to travel or leave China after September 3, 2011, Deirdre, Aisling and Hannah will be flying to the US either next month or in August while Hannah is still able to travel. Their intent will be to stay in the US through May of next year when she can get her citizenship. Hannah will be traveling to the US on a tourist visa that will only allow her a maximum stay of 6 months. We will need to work out how we can accomplish this and stay compliant with US Immigration Law. Obviously we are not looking forward to this, as it will split up our family this next year and is not good for any of us. We have exhausted every legal route that is available to us, so our back is against the wall on this. This has also been a very expensive nightmare for us with each petition, trip, etc running up the costs for this, and we will need to work out how we can finance this. This has also been a very emotional experience to both Deirdre and I as we have both been driven to tears over this,
There is one other option available: The US Congress can pass a private law granting Hannah immediate citizenship. For a variety of political reasons, Congress is reluctant to pass private laws and it is extremely difficult to get them act on this, however it is for situations exactly like this that Congress can pass a private law. In order to motivate Congress to do this, this message needs to go viral where they hear about it on multiple fronts.
Deirdre and I are asking that you help us spread this message and make it viral. Specifically we are asking three things:
- That you copy this story and post it on your Face book Page, so that all of your Friends will see this; our hope is that this will be copied far and wide so that Friends of Friends of Friends of Friends etc will copy this.
- We request that anyone who reads this Face book Post will email both their US Senators and Congressman requesting that a Private Law be enacted granting Hannah Daniel immediate US Citizenship. You can find your Senator or Congressman’s email contact at the following address:http://www.conservativeusa.org/mega-cong.htm
- Anyone that has access to the media’s attention, please forward this to the media so that it gets picked up and spread even wider.
For all of you that help us, I am extremely grateful; our daughter Hannah is counting on us, and I feel extremely helpless and powerless in this situation. Please help us solve this problem and protect our daughter. For anyone who needs or requests it, we have full documentation supporting this.
Bart and Deirdre Daniel
Home Phone: +86 028 6660-0180
Cell Number +86 13880833261