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Congressional letter to Commissioner Ziglar (March 2002)


Dear Commissioner Ziglar:

We are writing regarding the suspension of adoptions in Cambodia and to inform you of our concerns about this tragic situation and its negative impact on children, prospective adoptive families, and international adoption as a whole. We appreciate your concerns about the systemic problems in the Cambodian adotion process and encourage you to continue with your efforts to make this system more transparent.

We appreciate the information provided to us during the congressional briefings given by INS and the Department of State over these last few months, and the efforts of the Joint INS/DOS Task Force to remedy the situation for many of these waiting families and children. We are, however, deeply troubled by the extremely narrow criteria being used by the Task Force to determine which of these cases are considered far enough along in the official process to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for adjudication as a part of this "special humanitarian initiative." This criterion is unfair because many prospective adoptive parents  place in the "official process" is a direct result of INS and U.S. Department of State action or inaction on their case. We are worried that many deserving cases will ultimately be denied due consideration for processing.

More than one hundred families, who are not yet considered part of this "special initiative," have contacted us and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute showing that their I-171H forms were approved and transmitted by cable to the Embassy in Phnom Penh before the U.S.·imposed suspension of December 21, 2001. We are troubled that these families are expected to provide adoption documents from the, Cambodian government to the Task Force, which they cannot produce, because of the INS and U.S. Department of State mistakes related to their cases.

Our offices are aware of adoption cases whereby INS offices failed to send a timely Cable 37 to the American Embassy in Phnom Penh confirming a family’s approval. In addition, in a majority of adoption cases, families are not further along in the official process because of the American Embassy’s refusal to either confirm receipt of the Cable 37 or to issue a release letter for transmittal to the Cambodian government. It is also our understanding that some of the cases which the Task Force has deemed eligible for processing were actually filed, received and processed at a later date than others not considered far enough along in the process. It is clear that there has been a gradual breakdown in the system in Cambodia since as early as August or September. No family should he disqualified from this "specia1 humanitarian initiative" because of our government’s failure to meet its responsibilities.

In light of the known deficiencies in INS and State Department Cambodian adoption processing, we respectfully request that the Task Force broaden its criteria for considering “pipeline" adoption cases eligible for processing review. We appreciate your immediate consideration of our humanitarian request regarding these adoption cases.


[list of signatures]

2002 Mar 18