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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Families Challenge Feds’ Nepal Adoption Ban

(CN) - Homeland Security unreasonably suspended all adoptions of Nepalese children for fear they were not really abandoned, prospective American adoptive families claim in D.C. Federal Court.

Aaron and Emma Skalka and three other American families seeking to adopt abandoned children from Nepal, along with Raleigh, N.C., nonprofit Frank Adoption Center, sued several U.S. immigration officials on Wednesday.

The dispute stems from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) blanket suspension of all adoptions of abandoned children from Nepal in August 2010, according to the complaint.

The joint order was based on the "legally unsupported view that documentation and testimony from relevant individuals regarding the circumstances surrounding the children's abandonment by their parents are per se unreliable," the lawsuit states.

American families have been adopting Nepalese children since 1976, the plaintiffs say.

"As a result, thousands of abandoned Nepalese children have escaped a life of poverty and isolation-spent in either a Nepalese orphanage or, worse, on the streets of Nepal-and are now part of caring and loving families in the United States," the complaint states. "The ability of these families to bring these new members of their family back to the United States was left undisturbed for over 20 years."

The Skalkas, who live in Annapolis, Md., with a child they adopted from Nepal in December 2010, claim the feds approved their I-600A petition for advance processing to adopt a second Nepalese child on Feb. 7, 2013.

But the Skalkas say that after they filed the I-600 petition - with the applicable fee and child-background investigation results - to classify the second child as their "immediate relative" in Kathmandu on June 23, 2015, the Department of State rejected the petition on Nov. 5.

"Unfortunately, the child matched with your family was abandoned at a hospital, and falls within the 2010 suspension of adjudication of abandonment-based petitions," the agency allegedly stated. "The I-600 Petition will be returned to USCIS in Delhi as not clearly approvable."

USCIS then told the Skalkas that the suspension barred the agency from approving their petition, so it had to close the case, according to the Jan. 20 lawsuit.

The agencies "collectively approved," however, all 62 I-600 petitions that had been filed and were still pending at the time of the suspension, the complaint states.

"After investigating each of these I-600 petitions, [the Department of State] and USCIS did not find any instances of fraud or inaccuracy relating to any of them, refuting any conclusion of systemic fraud in the Nepalese adoption process," the plaintiffs claim.

The four families seek to compel the government agencies to remove the blanket suspension and adjudicate their I-600 petitions via a writ of mandamus or the Administrative Procedure Act.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez are named as defendants in their official capacities.

The families are represented by Patrick Linehan with Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C.

The government defendants have yet to return a request for comment emailed Thursday.

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