The U.S. government announced Monday that it has eased the requirements for orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States on a temporary basis.
The move is being made to ensure they get needed care after last week's earthquake in Haiti, said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who made the announcement in coordination with the U.S. Department of State.
"We are committed to doing everything we can to help reunite families in Haiti during this very difficult time," said Napolitano in a news release. "While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorizing the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here."
Napolitano can grant humanitarian parole into the United States to bring otherwise inadmissible individuals into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or other emergencies.
The State Department said earlier Monday it is working with DHS and the Haitian government to process nearly 300 cases of Americans who are waiting to adopt Haitian children.
Of those, 200 cases are being accelerated. Twenty-four of those children, whose cases "were at the very end of the process" before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti nearly a week ago, have departed Haiti and joined their new families after the embassy expedited processing for immigrant visas, said Michele Bond, deputy assistant secretary for American citizen services.
Department officials said Sunday that 150 children had already left Haiti, but corrected that number Monday.
Officials are reviewing every case individually to see where they are in the process, what actions have been taken in the case and whether the case can be accelerated, Bond said. The department said it will be announcing an adoption plan with travel specifics shortly.
If an American adoption case was early in the process, there is no guarantee of an accelerated adoption, Bond said. Examples of being early in the process would be if prospective parents have not been properly vetted; have not been matched with a specific child; or have been matched with a child but the Haitian government is still attempting to prove absolutely the child is an orphan.
The State Department is working with DHS to examine the documents in each case and show some flexibility, but this also requires the agreement of the Haitian government, she said.