Sans home and identity: A story from the US

Ambika Pandit, TNN, Nov 7, 2010, 04.17am IST

MUMBAI: Among the many looking forward to American President Barack Obama’s visit toIndia was an anxious Jennifer Edgell Haynes. She has no interest in Indo-US relations. All she wants is to be reunited with her family in Michigan. 

In an open letter addressed to the US president, which has been delivered to the office of the US consulate general at Lincoln House on November 2, this 28-year-old mother of two, sketches the shocking tale of an inter-country adoption gone wrong. Haynes was adopted by an American couple from a 

Mumbai orphanage in 1989. Unfortunately for the seven-year-old, her foster family didn’t want her two years on. The adoption agency ‘gave’ Haynes away to another American couple in Michigan. If only that meant all would be well. Haynes claims that her new foster parents exploited her and she was forced to seek refuge in other foster homes, eventually ending up on America’s mean streets. 

Things settled down a bit when she married but that was an all-too brief period of stability. Haynes was deported to India when she was caught in a drug case in 2008. She was told she wasn’t an American citizen and had no right to stay in the US. 

Today, she says, “Till then I thought I was very much an American but when the immigration officials saw my papers, it came to light that the documentation process for my US citizenship was not complete. I was put in a plane and next thing I knew, I was being sent to India. That was July 2, ironically, also my wedding anniversary…”Haynes’ letter to Obama asks for the chance to be united with her children Kadafi, 7, and Kassana, 6. She last saw them two years ago and her only link with them is the telephone line. 

Haynes says her problems with being deported to her “home” country are similar to most adopted children. “I cannot relate to life in India. I have no family here. I cannot even get a job because I have no identity papers here. The last two years have been about moving from place to place and making ends meet with whatever little money I get doing some odd jobs. Where do I go?”. 

Activist Arun Dohle says Haynes’s harrowing tale brings to the fore the dangers of inter-country adoption. Anjali Pawar, director of the NGO Sakhi, is supporting Haynes in her fight for justice. She says, “Her case reveals that the adoptive families did not do the needful to complete the formalities for an American citizenship after she was taken there. This entire adoption process needs to be examined.” Pawar adds, “Ultimately, the government will have to focus on in-country adoptions.” 

Haynes, meanwhile, prays the US president’s visit might end her run of ill-luck.