I love you, Doug. Shouting it from the rooftop.
My friend, Shannon, wrote this post in support of our family. Shannon is a mom of six young babes, four of whom joined her family through international adoption. Busy is her middle name, and yet, she advocates tirelessly, not only for her own children and children with disabilities, but for our girls. In this post, she compares her adoption to ours and gives a call to action.
Thank you all for your prayers and offers to help and friendship and love. The waiting is pure torture, but it has been made bearable by all who love us. And thank you, Shannon. <3
Just want to give a quick catch up to those of you following our journey to #bringthemhome. Just in case this is TL;DR (too long, didn’t read), the upshot is that the girls are still in Ghana, and we’re still fighting to loosen the ties that bind with USCIS.
But here’s the longer version for those interested.
- On 11/17/14, we received word that the Administrative Appeals Office of the United States Customs and Immigration Services (AAO USCIS) had denied our appeal for visas for Mary and Comfort. The content of their response contained several legal inaccuracies. Also, we and #legalteamHanna believe that it is beyond a travesty of justice that two United States citizens are locked in ridiculous red tape in bringing home legally adopted children. So, we decided to move forward with what is called “A Motion to Reconsider” with the AAO. We also asked (again) for an expedited ruling, primarily because of the outbreak of Ebola in West African countries.
- We had 30 or 33 days to complete our motion, and it was received on 12/16/14.
- Other than receiving a receipt number, we have heard NOTHING in one month.
- I have contacted people in Senator Cantwell’s office and Representative Del Bene’s office to no avail. Both assistants said that they would inquire about our case, and neither have reported anything. In fact, I’m disappointed with how sluggish their responses have been. I suppose it’s too much to ask for them to really care and advocate. Bigger fish to fry, I guess. But it makes me frustrated and angry.
- I’ve tweeted Congress, Representative Del Bene, Senator Cantwell, USCIS, and everyone else I can think of. No response. There are several sweet souls who have retweeted my messages to try to make some noise, but I think it comes down to the fact that Mary and Comfort are little girls in another country, who can’t vote, can’t pay taxes, and who aren’t desperate enough to come over our borders for asylum. Our story is not a sexy, volatile, or loud enough blip on the radar screen for intervention beyond ourselves and our team. My questions for USCIS are these, though:
- From what or whom are you protecting these girls? They would be homeless without our intervention.
- What do you think would happen to these children if we are forced to relinquish them (as it is neither feasible, nor should it be mandated that we would move to Ghana to raise them)?
- They have been waiting for a family since 2009. How much longer shall they wait?
- And my question for Congress is: Whom are our immigration laws supposed to serve and protect?
- So, that’s where we’re at. Waiting. I am a woman of faith, and will wait upon the Lord for His timing. But, I also feel responsible, as these girls’ adoptive mother, to do my utmost to fight the injustice that our girls have faced with this protracted wait between adoption and homecoming.
- To end on a positive note, I want to share pictures of the girls enjoying their Christmas party. Don’t you love their braids and their cheery, bright, new dresses? They look happy and healthy, which makes me happy for them. Also, the incredible Ghana Facebook group has yielded so many sweet relationships and offers of help. Today, one of my friends is carrying a care package over to the girls from us. Being able to do such a small thing feels so big to us, right now.
Thank you so much for coming along for the ride, and if you have any other ideas regarding how to light a fire under anyone for advocacy, please let me know. Meanwhile, prayers and support are so uplifting to us. xxxooo Soli Deo Gloria
I should probably have this blog sent someplace to be bound into a book, because it sure has been the best of times and the worst of times in trying to add to our family through adoption. What the heck?
On Monday (has it only been since Monday?), we received notice that our appeal to the United States Customs and Immigration Services Administrative Appeals Office (USCIS AAO) had been denied. I can’t adequately explain our shock and sadness at the thought that this decision would mean that our girls would remain in Ghana after nearly two years of loving, caring for, and fighting for them. Was this the end? Sure seemed so. And, to be entirely honest, it could be.
Doug and I and our team have a BIG PROBLEM with the fact that two U.S. citizens cannot bring home their LEGALLY ADOPTED children to live with them in the United States. Our attorneys feel that the AAO has failed to correctly interpret and apply the immigration laws to our case, and as such, feel confident that we have several legal arguments for a reconsideration of our case. Further, they have unanimously agreed that we have every right to see these laws interpreted correctly and applied justly to our case. Our team is in a tricky spot, because they’re impassioned about what they’re ready to do on our behalf and yet, don’t want to offer false hope. However, we trust them. So, we are moving forward with asking them to file a motion for a reconsideration of our case.
A long time ago, Doug and I decided to treat Mary and Comfort as if they were living here, and fight for them as hard as we’d fight for David and Jenny in any sort of crisis. We decided to fight, with everything in us, until we were literally told that we must stop as nothing, NOTHING else could be done. According to Ghanaian law they’ve been our children for 18 months. We won’t give up on our children. Any of them.
Thank you for your prayers and support. As I’ve said before, this has been our oxygen during this terribly emotional week.
As always, I’ll keep you posted. Much love to you. SDG!
Unless, of course, you’re shouting for joy!
Which I am.
Because…I received this from Senator Cantwell’s office this morning:
Regarding the status of the case from the (Administrative Appeals Office) AAO: The expedite request has been approved by Management and the file is currently in the process for adjudications. A decision will be made within the next few weeks.
They heard our letters, our emails, and our pleas over the TV to #bringthemhome.
It’s not a “yes”, yet; so I ask you to join with me and continue to fervently pray for a YES!!! But we are SO grateful to know we can count on a decision very soon.
Many thanks to all, with specific shout outs to Senator Maria Cantwell and Staff, and to Eric Wilkinson, King 5 News. This is the first good news we’ve had in regards to our girls’ case in over a year. We still have hurdles and hoops ahead, but for today, I’m just going to be thankful.
Soli Deo Gloria!
P.S. I also would be remiss if I didn’t thank my friends Rick and Robin C for helping get our story personally to some of Cantwell’s immediate staff.
Dear Framily (Friends and Family),
I have to say that Doug and I are overwhelmed at your rally cry on behalf of us as we try to bring Mary and Comfort home, where they belong. I’ve been flat-out brought to tears as I’ve seen every signature and read your comments on our petition to #bringthemhome. Thank you isn’t enough, but it’s all we have, so thank you.
We have heard from several of your senators, as well as our own, and we’ve been happy to give them information and sign away our privacy rights. But here’s what we now know from our senator’s staffer, based on some of her legwork:
- The Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS will likely take the entire 6 months allotted to them to read and respond to our appeal. Why we have a 30 day deadline on submitting our appeal and they get 6 months to evaluate is beyond me, but that’s the way it is. Doug and I knew that the 6 months was a possibility, but couldn’t imagine why it would take that long, because our case shouldn’t have even needed to go there. But oh, well.
- We’ve been advised that we can now submit a case for and expedited response. However, knowing that these folks are people, first and professionals, second, if we do this, we’ll have to tread carefully to avoid angering/pestering them. We want our appeal read with openness and fairness, not resentment and overly critical/biased-against-us eyes.
- She advised us that our “case is not unusual.” This horrifies me beyond belief, but alas, “you will really have to document your case for expedite with facts…”
- So, the long and the short of it is, unless someone big advocates for us at an extremely high level, or we find someone compassionate to expedite our case, we won’t hear until around 10 March 2015.
At this point, we feel like the petition has run its course of effectiveness, so we are taking it down. From what we’ve heard from our senator’s office (so far) and some others, it seems like the USCIS AAO is fairly untouchable, and their offices can make the same inquiry as our own senator, but can’t seem to get any further. Thus, continuing to urge other senators to bark up the same tree seems burdensome and a waste of their time, since they are getting the same result as Senator Cantwell’s office.
We’re not giving up hope, and are definitely considering an argument for expedition; however, we’re also prepared to wait some more. Sigh. Was sure hoping to have them home this fall. Comfort turns 8 next month. But I guess it’s not to be.
We love you and are grateful for each of you. Also, to end on a happy note: Mary and Comfort are starting school on Monday. They are so excited, and we are excited for them. Seems like their new foster home is a good environment for them, which is so important to us. Hopefully, we’ll be talking to them each Sunday evening before they go to bed.
Thanks again. Soli Deo Gloria!
Dear Friends and Family,
Many of you have asked us what you can do to help us bring home Mary and Comfort. We think our case is dire enough to beseech our senators on behalf of the girls. If you are interested in supporting this cause via our Senators Murray and Cantwell, please click here, and you will be directed to our petition. We ask that you sign and share with as many people as you would like, who might be interested in supporting our family. Let’s #bringthemhome.
When you are directed to the site, you will see our letter to the Senators. Please feel free to add the following to the beginning of the letter if you like.
“Please see below for a letter from our friends, Doug and Gretchen Hanna, concerning their daughters, Mary and Comfort, who are stuck in Ghana. We would appreciate your support in bringing their daughters home.”
We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
Soli Deo Gloria!
If they come to mind, our girls could sure use prayers late today and through tomorrow. M and C will be moving to a new foster home, as the one where they have been living needs to close. Though saddened by a) another transition for them, and b) the fact that it drives me c.r.a.z.y. that they are moving to a home which IS NOT OURS, I am grateful. The new home is safe, and has a lovely foster mom (from reports of folks whose children have stayed there). And, the same wonderful people at Feeding the Orphans and GMI are being so helpful in moving and settling the girls into their new digs. This is especially important to us, because obviously we can’t be there to help them transition.
So much grief for two little girls who have asked for none of it. Ugh.
But…as always, there’s a lesson here, if we choose to see it: Though things might not be going as I would plan, God is always near, and He cares for His children. Beyond blessed and thankful for the love He has for my family.
p.s. and by the way…our appeal has been in since 8 September. waiting.
I don’t know about you, but when I get anxious, I’ve often been told something along the lines of, “Just picture the worst possible scenario. Now. How likely is that to happen? How would you deal with that? OK. Now, what is more likely to happen?”
Well, it happened. Our friends at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have revoked approval to classify our daughters as immigrants. Worst.case.scenario. We are, of course, shocked, saddened, angered, and in despair about this news, which means they’ve been denied visa approval.
We said before that we weren’t stopping until we had no further recourse. With bruised, broken hearts, and hopeful, determination, we’re appealing this decision. We’re moving forward, as far as we can, knowing that this could very well end up with a devastating decision for all of us. But that’s okay.
They’re worth the fight.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Love you all. SDG!
Hey there…I’m over here at my friend Jean’s place today: Jean P. Sullivan: Wisdom – One Crisis at a Time. Jean is one of my favorite people in the world, and she humbled and honored me by asking me to post about what God is teaching me as I wait upon our girls’ homecoming. Her story can be found here, and do subscribe to her blog. She’s an incredibly wise, practical wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, and she’s less wordy than me. Holla!
Soli Deo Gloria!
P.S. The latest news is no news. I spoke to our very busy customs officer last week, and she said she might have an answer for us within a month. So…there’s that. Blessings, and thanks again for your love and support. God truly sustains through our family and friends. xxxooo