As the internet continued to connect people from all over the country, many of us kept asking the question, “What can we do?” We felt so helpless and felt like we needed to do something!
Gradually the picture seemed to come a bit clearer. There’s a term called “Humanitarian Parole” in immigration rules. Basically it means, “Get the kids out of the country and to their new home and finish the paperwork later.
It’s only been used a few times. The Vietnam baby lift is the most common example of when it happened. Little did we know in 2004 that it would end up getting used in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti.
Those of us with children stuck in Haiti gathered together and came up with the idea of doing a “bear a van” and collect Teddy Bears from all over the country to represent the children who were stuck in Haiti. We would then bring all of them to Washington DC and use that as an effort to urge our government to show compassion on the children and the families and grant them humanitarian parole.
It succeeded and it failed.
It succeeded in that we had a large number of people show up and come to Washington to show our government what an impact this coup was having on families from all over the United States. I’ll never forget talking to the chairperson of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and she said to me, “I’ve been in a lot of Senate briefings and I’m very familiar with this room, but when I walked in and saw teddy bears lined up all around the room, on the tables, on the front podium and every single one of them had a picture on it and matched up with a kid in Haiti waiting for their family, I lost it.”
It failed because even though we had the opportunity to talk to a large number of people in Washington, we were not able to get them to change their minds and institute humanitarian parole. But that ended up being ‘okay’ because within 6 weeks, things were pretty back to normal and we only lost about 6 weeks in the process.
The other way that we succeeded is that it gave all of us, as parents, the ability to talk to our children later, tell them the story and explain to them what we did and how we did everything possible to keep them safe and get them home as soon as possible.