Posts Tagged ‘DHS’

I don’t know where to begin. It all feels like a Kafka novel, where nothing makes sense.

When last I blogged, the latest 30 days for the IRS were nearly up. It got more fun.

I called, the usual hour wait was fallowed by a disconnect (this will matter later, I think). Finally, I got in touch with them again. I was advised by our CPA to say the magic words “Taxpayer Advocate” if they weren’t done. I got a bit of a run around. Apparently they goofed when last we spoke, The original 12 weeks expired a day or 2 after we got our 30 day referral. The system, for lack of a better term, didn’t notice the new referral and it had not been processed. I’m not sure why you need a referral for them to actually process a return they have had for 4 months.

I spoke the magic words, but was told it was too late. They had already entered a new referral, and we had to wait 30 days for them to contact the Taxpayer Advocacy Service. I could contact them on my own, but they were swamped. Indeed they were. I was told that unless we were on the brink of financial disaster they could not help us. Talk about getting the shaft from a government agency.

The next day we went to the Passport Office to apply for Micah and Asher’s passports. The applications included her Green Card, their DRC passports as well as our passports.

Then it all got interesting.



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Alien of Another Kind

Been a bit busy around here, and Amie has been under the weather. She doesn’t get sick very often. Quite rare in fact, but the trip to Africa (and all the stress) have probably compromised her immune system. So she has a nasty sinus and respiratory infection that just won’t let go. Sort of like the alien that shoots out of the pod and sticks the tube down your throat with its tail around your neck. I expect some alien creature to pop out of her chest whenever she has a coughing fit.

Okay, not really.

We last I wrote, we had discovered that the DHS officer working immigration at  the airport had really botched things. Asher’s date of entry, among other things, was not entered. He is technically not in the country as far as USCIS is concerned. Yes, we have an undocumented child.

We have received Micah’s green card despite not being listed as her parent/guardian on the file by the DHS employee (maybe he was a replacement DHS worker since he seems unable to do his job like the replacement refs).

One of these may appear at any moment

Amie has talked with 5-6 people with USCIS about this problem. No one seems to 1. know how to address it and 2. know who does know how to correct it. So she gets another number to call, explains it (as she tries not to cough up a lung, or alien baby), and gets another number to call. It’s like trying to get an answer from the administration about the protests in the Middle East- the answer always changes. Actually, the 5th or 6th person never called us back. We’ve been on USCIS hold for about 1 1/2 weeks.

She tried the State Department. They seemed nice, wanting to help. Couldn’t/didn’t.

Bruce should rename this song “Call it Bureaucracy”. (there is profanity, so decide whether you want to hear it) (the story continues after the song)

Now we are on to Senator McCain’s office. I’m not wild about McCain. But as the Senior Senator from AZ (he is, right?) he’d probably have more pull than Kyl, and Ron Barber reeks of incompetence. Perhaps he works for DHS in his spare time messing up immigration forms.

The SSA, on the other hand, has surprised us greatly. This despite the fact they couldn’t pull up Asher’s records. Micah’s card, which was supposed to take 2 weeks was actually printed the day I went in and we received it a few days later. I was told at least 4-6 weeks for Asher’s due to the “problem”. Less than 2. So in less time than it took anyone from USCIS to get back to us (okay, one did, on a Saturday, but gave us another number), the SSA has gotten us SSNs and cards for these to new children. Go figure.

There haven’t been many photo ops as we have settled into the busier life that Fall brings. Sunday School and the Men’s and Women’s ministries have resumed. BSF has begun. Not as much leisure time. This is part of why we didn’t want to wait until the agency was ‘ready’ for us to go. We wanted some more relaxed time before everything ramped up.

I was supposed to go to Presbytery last week, in Albuquerque. I didn’t take the right turn by mistake. I didn’t go (see aforementioned alien baby). But we did have dinner with some friends on Saturday night. The kids played dress up. Micah was not too happy about her outfit. Though the nights are cooler now, The daytime temps are still around 100. Had to be hot in that thing. But you can tell that summer is over, you have to wait a few minutes for hot water. It isn’t instantaneous right now. Such is life in the desert.

Asher has been store the food in his mouth more frequently lately. We aren’t sure if he’s hoarding (which is common, but this way?) or wants to act like he’s eating without actually swallowing food he doesn’t want. No clue. But there have been some tantrums about that, particularly since neither he nor Amie enjoy the process of digging the food out of his mouth. We will take a page from Amy Smith’s book, and the food he doesn’t eat will reappear at the next meal. No, not the chewed up, drooled upon bits.

Micah has been doing well. But still cries at night. She claims she doesn’t want to go to bed. I understand that, I didn’t either as a child. This morning she was tired. “See, I told you you needed to get some sleep.” Not exactly what she wanted to hear. She was angry the other night because she wanted to bring a stuffed animal to bed with her. Not a problem, in theory. The problem was it is an animal that her cousins gave her during the “magical” time of our visit last winter. It has fond memories for her. Last night I was trying to find another one, from the great, big bin of them we have, for her to bring to bed. Nope, that was the only one she wanted. I can see this is going to go well.

Next time I write, perhaps the alien baby will be born and our son will be “documented”. Then again…..

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We didn’t get much sleep this week. That’s what happens when you’re in communication with a place with a 5 hour time difference.

The Embassy in Kinshasa was focusing on our documentation this week after finally having interviewed the birth mother. That is another story that we may share in the future.

5 am Tuesday morning Amie got an e-mail from the Embassy employee that they did not have our 2011 tax return. We submitted all that paperwork prior to filing our tax return. We had forgotten that we should have that in there. Apparently it slipped the mind of the agency as well since they never asked for it. This is one of my frustrations, they are supposed to stay on top of all this stuff. It is what we pay them for.

Getting them that information was not as easy as it would be if we were home. But we are currently 2,000 miles away from our files and our computer. Thankfully we have an accountant. Thankfully he wasn’t on vacation like we are. He was able to send that in when he got into the office, after responding to our early morning e-mails.

5 am Wednesday morning we got another e-mail. Oddly, it was in her spam file and she “just happened” to scan that after getting a message from the person watching our home and hanging with Lulu. We were informed that they had our info, but it revealed that we would be $4,000 below the poverty level if we adopted these kids.

I was pretty certain they were only looking at my salary. As a pastor, my housing allowance is non-taxable income. So it doesn’t show up in my adjusted taxable income. We got through to the Embassy employee on the phone and talked with her about this. She ended up transferring us to the Consul and we talked about it.

What is frustrating is that this always comes up. When we buy a home. The other 5 steps in the adoption process when our income is relevant. It seems like I have to walk people through this when they should know this. Am I the only pastor who ever adopted a child? What was strange was that we have approval from DHS. Shouldn’t they have the same income regulations and standards as the Embassy?

It was a good conversation. I understand, he’s doing his job. I understand he’s not just supposed to rubber stamp it. As he said, the DHS ruling is not binding on him. But he was going to check into it and get back to us.

I was confident that he’s find out the same thing the others had and approve the adoption. Amie was not so certain. Others advised her to be proactive and send supporting info (like a letter about my raise this year which would cover the difference). We did that.

Thursday morning I was awakened around 5 am again (aren’t I supposed to be on vacation?!). This time it was good news. The adoption was approved, and the visas will be issued on Tuesday.

I’ve been saving a special “imported” cigar to celebrate this day. Sadly, it rained all day. And we had plans all day. But now we are working on Amie’s travel plans. We are hoping that she will leave Monday (or possibly Sunday). We want to do this for a few reasons.

  1.  We don’t want her to go home to AZ on Tues and fly right back out a few days later. Her body clock will be messed up enough as it is. And we don’t need to spend the money needlessly.
  2. We want to travel back before Asher turns 2 and needs a ticket instead of a lap ticket. That saves us a big chunk of change.
  3. We don’t want to have to spend $ on orphan care for an additional month.

One agency employee was hesitant about our plans, wanting to check with their DRC staff to see if too many people are already in-country. We basically told them we’ve waited long enough, and it makes no sense for Amie to crisscross the country.  We need plenty of wisdom as we sort all this out. We’ll both need grace as well. Amie as she crosses an ocean and a sea, landing in 2 different continents to pick up 2 kids she has never met. I need grace returning home with 2 kids needing to prepare a sermon, care for the kids and get the house ready for Amie’s return. I’ve never had to get the kids ready for Sunday morning, when I’m preaching, before. Should be interesting.

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DHS got back to us fairly quickly with appointments to get our fingerprints done.  They are in relatively early February, but we’ve heard that in some places you can show up days or even weeks earlier.  This could potentially speed up our process.  Why is that important?  If we adopt in 2011, we will get a tax refund, not a tax credit.  That is a big bunch of cash we can use to save for Eli’s surgery (since he isn’t currently insured) or replenish our savings after using the last few IRS checks for Eli’s adoption and then to stay afloat financially during the transition.  It is a practical concern as we think about the long range plan.

Rumor has it that there has been an outcry against the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s change of policy regarding baby curriers.  There are internet rumors that they will revert to the older policy allowing you to hire someone to transport the child to the States.  Since we already have 2 kids, it puts a strain on the family for a parent to be gone for a few weeks.  It makes it harder for the kids to adjust when Mom (or Dad) gets back.  Not an impossible thing, and many families have done it.  But something else for us to think about and plan for.

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The Great Adventure Conference has come and gone.  At one point one of the guys in my seminar asked, “Has the church really dropped the ball on this adoption issue?”.  Judging by the rather meager attendance for the seminar, I’d say “yes.”  It was discouraging for me to see only 3 guys in there, but all 3 we in the process of fostering to adopt.  So that was great.

On the flip side, over 800 people have registered for the Together for Adoption 2010 Conference in Austin, TX.  So, I see positive signs that the church is beginning to get a burden for orphan care, and seeing adoption as a picture of the gospel.

Amie has downloaded the I-600 form to begin the process with DHS.  So, we are now in the process of making our intentions known to the US government and need their permission.  So, that is a prayer request.

Today I (Steve) have my individual interview for the homestudy.  It will end up being a busy day.  So that’s all, folks.

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