LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Fresh off a fact-finding mission from the earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) blasted some recent developments in the Black Republic and called for more tents, more medicine, consistent U.S. military relief flights, and an end to all unvetted child adoptions.
Some of Rep. Waters’ strongest reactions were in response to the recent arrest of 10 Americans on allegations that they attempted to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic without valid documents.
“The children must be protected! They must not be given to people simply because they claim to want to do it for humanitarian reasons. If they have not been through a process, you don’t know what their motives are and you cannot let them go,” Rep. Waters told a standing-room-only audience Jan. 31 at the Us Organization’s African American Cultural Center.
According to media reports, Haiti has slowed child adoptions, requiring personal authorization by Prime Minister Max Bellerive as a way to prevent child trafficking. Rep. Waters said that only children who were already in the adoption process, had completed it, or were very near completion, were supposed to be released. But, she said, the Haitian government has relaxed its policy and children who have not completed the adoption process are going out of the country again.
Haitian authorities want to prosecute Baptist missionaries from Idaho who came into the country for a “Haitian Orphans Rescue Mission,” but had no Haitian government approvals or documents when stopped at the Dominican Republic’s border. The children ranged in age from two months to 12-years-old, but its leader Laura Silsby denied child trafficking charges.
“We have information about people trying to steal kids to take them out of the country, which is the reason why the government has decided to reinforce security,” Haitian communications minister Marie Lassegue told reporters. At Final Call presstime, a local judge was weighing whether the accused child thieves, who are associated with the Central Valley Baptist Church in Idaho, should be prosecuted in Haiti or in the United States, she said.
During the session, which was hosted by the Us national chairman Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University–Long Beach, Rep. Waters declared the Congressional Black Caucus wants to and could do more to help with Haiti, but has been handcuffed by federal policy.
“The federal government has so many rules … handcuffs on us about what we can and cannot do. With these handcuffs it makes it appear as if the Black Caucus is not doing maybe everything it should do,” said the outspoken lawmaker.
Ethics waivers may be needed to allow Black lawmakers to operate more easily and facilitate aid going to Haitians on the ground, she said.
“Imagine you’re trapped under a building and somebody asks you, ‘I’ll give you the food but give me your children?’ … Taking them to a foreign, racist land gives them a new problem to cope with,” Dr. Karenga said.
The “Haitian Orphans Rescue Mission” says it had documents from the Dominican government, but did not seek any paperwork from the Haitian authorities before taking the children.
That is exactly the point, critics argued. Matching the children with the parents or next of kin will take some time, but children should not be snatched from their country simply because of the devastation, they said. Some family members could be trapped under the rubble for days, yet could still be alive, they added.
Rep. Waters urged a flood of blast emails, phone calls, faxes, and letters to political leaders, radio, television, and print media, demanding an end to the adoptions.
The conditions are horrible but something can be done to break the bureaucracy and get things done, she said. Helping the Haitian people is more than clothes and shoes, there must be Haitian ownership and the help must include better public policy, Rep. Waters said.
But right now, there is a need for 250,000 Army quality tents in Haiti before impending rain for temporary shelter and to help prevent the spread of illnesses, said the California Democrat.
Babies are already suffering from diarrhea and dysentery, Rep. Waters pointed out. Mothers have to bathe their children in parks; one million plus lay homeless, and women are delivering babies in these conditions, she said.
Food distribution is still weak, though better because it’s expanding beyond Port-au-Prince and the number of amputees is mind-boggling, Rep. Waters said.
“I’ve seen all kinds of things being done by people who have nothing, but they keep getting up every day. They keep working. They keep struggling and they keep believing. We cannot allow the cameras to leave and forget about Haiti,” she said.
Rep. Waters did not have all of the facts on why U.S. military flights stopped transporting the critically ill and injured to Florida, but without consistency, she said, at least 100 critically ill patients in Port-au-Prince stand to die.
On Jan. 27, the U.S. military halted flights carrying the earthquake victims to the U.S. because of an apparent dispute over where seriously injured patients should be taken for treatment and who would pay for their treatment.
The U.S. military said some states were refusing to take patients and Gov. Charlie Crist, of Florida, petitioned U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to activate the National Disaster Medical System. The system is typically used in domestic disasters and pays for victims’ care. Florida’s health care system was quickly reaching its capacity, especially in the area of high level trauma care, according to the governor. A spokesperson for Gov. Crist said medical aid would continue with costs dealt with further down the line.
Another issue was some doctors who have flown to Haiti to help with relief efforts were left waiting at the airport for two-to-three days to get assignments, she said. On the other hand, a doctor from Northern California alleged that a military plane that was supposed to take doctors back to Florida charged the physicians $2,000 for the flight. “They said that if you don’t have the $2,000 they make you fill out a form of a promise to pay and if you don’t pay it within a certain period of time, they come after you,” Rep. Waters said.