DANA PERINO: Finally, Some Good News On Immigration

NEWSFLASH – House passes bipartisan immigration measures by huge margins! Read all about it!

Oh, wait…you can’t read all about it because the media barely noticed; And it’s somewhat understandable given all the other news of the week that two immigration-related bills passed in the House flew under the radar.

Sure, they weren’t the far-reaching comprehensive changes that some Americans may have expected, but to a special group of American parents they are significant nonetheless. It shows that there really is a way to find some common ground on immigration.

For a while I’ve wanted to write about the amazing American parents that want to adopt children from another country, and what our government can do to help. You may not have heard that it’s become substantially more difficult and bureaucratic to complete international adoptions – there is a lot more paperwork and many more background checks and required travel back and forth (a sort of cruel family shuttle diplomacy where parents have to keep getting time off work to travel to far-flung places to prove that yes they really really really REALLY want to adopt this child).

That means more checks to make sure the children being adopted are truly parentless, not the victims of human trafficking, and that the adopting parents will provide healthy and safe home environments.

Many countries now also want to ensure that “their” children have some connection and education about the country of their birth, so that they have a cultural tie. In some cases, I’m sure they hope those children will grow into productive, successful adults that will want to return home to help develop their native country.

But the well-intentioned delays have caused problems, too. Parents have to wait so long for their approvals that they get frustrated and give up…or their hearts break and they can’t sleep night after night knowing that the child that was not born to them physically but lives in their hearts, is cold and hungry and lying in a crowded and unsafe orphanage when he or she could be here in America going to school and having a chance at a wonderful family life.

In some cases, countries will withhold approvals for American adoptions for political reasons, or because they believe that tragic stories of abuse of adopted children are the norm, not the rare exception.

Add to this the bitter immigration debate we’ve been having for years, and the path to international adoptions has gotten steeper and rockier.

Yet there is hope and help on the way – small steps taken by the Congress to lift some of the unnecessary bureaucracy.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have long advocated for American parents that have big enough hearts to want to adopt. On July 22, 2010, they successfully persuaded many of their colleagues to vote for two bills that would ease the immigration process in international adoption cases:

• The International Adoption Harmonization Act of 2010 gives parents more time to complete immigration paperwork.

Right now, U.S. citizens can have their adopted foreign children considered immediate relatives if they are adopted while under the age of 16. The bill would extend that until the children are 18 years old. The lead sponsor of the bill is Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and her cosponsors are John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jeffrey Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

• The Help HAITI Act of 2010 will allow the approximately 1,200 orphans from Haiti brought to the United States after the earthquake earlier this year immediately to receive permanent residence. Without passage of this bill, U.S. parents who adopted these children would be required to have their temporary status to live in America renewed every year.

That burden would be lifted with this legislation. Speaking of the passage of this bill, Rep. Smith said, “This legislation helps future American citizens who have already suffered much but who will have bright futures in the United States."

A wide range of bipartisan lawmakers pitched in to help on this one, with Fortenberry as the lead sponsor, and support from co-sponsors Brown- Waite, Cao, Cassidy, Conyers, Costa, Gerlach, Jones, Latta, Lofgren, Lungren, Rangel, Chris Smith, Lamar Smith, Terry, Upton, Young.

It’s a long way from comprehensive immigration reform and border security that Americans are demanding – but these small steps mean a lot to the Americans whose love is bigger and more patient than just about anything in the world, and the Members of Congress that helped pass these bills deserve some credit for their bipartisan cooperation. See, it CAN be done.

Dana Perino is Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary.

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