Day 78 in country, I woke up took my bath-shower and pulled out something other than a t-shirt and yoga pants. I was on my way to meet with the Ambassador after all. I got ready, touching up make-up, leaving my hair down, febreezing my best shirt and least wrinkly skirt. I dressed up Lainey in one of her cute outfits. I stepped outside and the phone rang: shooting and riots in the streets, our driver and in-country guy couldn’t make it, our meeting is cancelled. Angry, but not surprised, I came back into my room, pulled off my fancy shirt and shoes and put on a t-shirt and flip flops.
It has been almost three months since I arrived in my youngest daughter’s birth country. When we arrived, it took a couple of weeks for the Congolese ministries to process all our paperwork and within that time the US Embassy put out an alert. This alert stated that the DGM, who issues exit letters to Congolese children, had announced a suspension on exits. Those who had Bordereau letters that were dated prior to September 25th would still receive these exit letters during the suspension. We have a pre-25th Bordereau so we tried to file, but to no avail. We heard rumors of a first list and second list and many other things that gave us hope we would still receive an exit letter.
The Embassy stated that once we were able to submit to the DGM, they would fight for citizens after 10 days if our case had not progressed. On Wednesday, November 27, thanks to the efforts of our Embassy, I was finally able to submit my paperwork to DGM. Since then the Embassy has met with the DGM, but has not been able to hold them to adhere to their own policies. The Embassy put out another alert in December regarding the issuance of exit letters. They were told that they are still processing pre-25th Bordereaus and that parents “must be patient.” Processing of exit letters is stated on the DGM website as taking one week. At one month of “processing” I would say that we’ve exceeded “patient”. This does not include the nearly 6 weeks that we waited just for the DGM to accept something that they said they would from the beginning.
Lainey, has changed so much since we first met. She’s attached. By ALL legal rights she is our daughter. She has a US Visa and we meet all the criteria that the Congo has stipulated during their suspension, yet we are still unable to receive an exit permit.
Before I arrived, the longest I’ve ever been away from Camille and Noah has been for two days. After Chris returned from his deployment at the end of February we were determined to all be together. This led us to decide to homeschool until we arrived at our next duty station, so we could travel with him to different military training that was required. Now we are all separated, my parents are watching the children in Maryland, Chris is in school in Virginia, and I am here in Congo. Cami and Noah are at an age where this is hard; when they were younger they were not as aware when Chris was gone, now they are. Camille will facetime with me, Noah will every once in a while (but it seems too tough for him). My mom sends videos, but has said Noah asks when I am coming home often. This was our second Christmas apart. 9 of the last 15 months we have been separated. This just isn’t right.
There are other families that I am stuck with here in country that have all that the necessary documents that the DGM requires as well. Our paperwork has been accepted and processed, yet we wait without reason.
We are now contacting congressmen, senators, and lawyers. We are desperate to return home with our children. If you know anyone or would be willing, please write regarding our case. We have been stuck for too long.
We are reaching out to anyone to share and contact your congressmen regarding our case. There is a new bill that has been introduced to congress called Children in Families First. I am linking below the news article regarding the bill as well as the site, which lists several representatives and their emails.
Recap of dates:
10/13 Arrive in Country
10/15 Met our daughter
10/17 Visa Issued
10/23 – State Dept. Alert about needing Bourdereau dated pre-September 25th, ours is dated 9/05/13
11/27 – Submitted documents to DGM