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On Father's Day, Visa Laws Block Family Reunification

June 17, 2012 (1 min read)

"Jhan Jensen’s fingers barely graze the screen of the iPad. It’s the closest he can get to his 14-month-old daughter.  For more than 11 months, these once-a-week video conferences are sources of joy and pain.  She has taken her first steps, graduated from baby formula to Cheerios and started to talk. Jensen believes if he were with her, "Da-da" would’ve been among her first words.  Instead, Miriam stares at him through the iPad screen with big brown eyes — confused by the technology that allows her to be seemingly so close to Jensen and yet actually be more than 8,700 miles away from him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ... Part of the difficulty stems from the Malaysian government, which tightly regulates adoptions by requiring potential parents to sign a two-year waiting agreement — called a "fostering period" — during which the birth mother can reconsider her decision to give up the baby.  During those two years, the potential parents are designated as "legal custodians."  The effort, according to officials at the Malaysian ministry, is to avoid having children become the victims of human trafficking.  The problem is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services won’t grant citizenship to the child because full parenthood hasn’t been bestowed on the couple. And the State Department won’t issue a tourist visa because the child wouldn’t be returning to Malaysia.  The Catch-22 leaves the Jensens in limbo." - David Jensen, Salt Lake Tribune, June 16, 2012.