Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Never-Ending Paperwork

Rosie has been home for 9 months, but it seems like the paperwork will never end. Yesterday, I spent another 2.5 hours at the Social Security Office waiting to apply for a social security number for her so that we can file our taxes.

But, when I finally reached the head of the line (with all 3 children in tow), the woman looked through my paperwork only to tell me that Rosie wasn't a US Citizen and that she could only issue a card that gave Rosie's information as listed on her permanent resident card. But, her permanent resident card lists her as a resident alien and uses her Ethiopian name. No matter how many times I showed her our re-adoption paperwork from an Oklahoma court, she simply insisted that it didn't matter whether or not re-adopting made her a citizen, the only way to get the federal government to update her status in their computer system was to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (another $420) or to bring in Rosie's American passport. I pointed out that any other American citizen didn't have to pay $420 just for a paper that says "Hello, I'm an American" and that in order to apply for a passport you have to have a social security number, but in the end, they wouldn't budge and so I came away without the number.

Now, I could just pay the $420, except, these days, who has that kind of money just laying around? And, there is a principle at stake. The American government (specifically United States Citizenship and Immigration Services-USCIS) does a really good job of providing mountains of paperwork and collecting large sums of money at every opportunity from citizens who attempt to adopt from overseas. First it was filling out the forms in the first place, next it was having to have our fingerprints put in the system, then it was having our fingerprints "expire", so that we had to be re-fingerprinted, and now, making us apply for a paper that states that Rosie is a citizen, which is something we already have the court paperwork from our state to show.

So, I haven't caved (yet). Instead, I came home, got on the telephone to Washington D.C. and spent a couple of hours with aides from Senator Coburn and Senator Inhofe's offices speaking to them about the unnecessary bureaucracy that penalizes families who have already given USCIS plenty of money and paperwork hours. And then, I asked them to speak to their senators about proposing legislation that would force USCIS to enact more reasonable fees and to get rid of a required Certificate of Citizenship for internationally adopted children who have American court paperwork which proves their re-adoption(which automatically grants them Citizenship).

I'm not holding my breath. The first guy really didn't seem to get it and just kept telling me where to go online to download the necessary forms for the Certificate. But, finally, I managed to make him understand that I was perfectly capable of downloading the form and had already done so, but was protesting the injustice of making money off of adoptions. After that, we had a very productive discussion, and he has taken down a load of information with a promise to talk again next week. He has asked us to go ahead and submit the Certificate of Citizenship paperwork with a note asking for a fee waiver given the money already paid to the various American government agencies for Rosie's adoption paperwork, and has said that he will track our form while it makes its' way through USCIS and work to have our fee waived. Then, he will work with Senator Inhofe to see if there is a way to get USCIS policy regarding paperwork for internationally adopted children altered so that they don't need a Certificate of Citizenship if they have been legally re-adopted in their home state. Like I said, I'm not holding my breath, but if you don't try, then nothing will ever change. And, there's not much point in having Senators who are to represent their constituents, if their constituents don't let them know what they want/don't want from their government.

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