Orphaned in Afghanistan, Adopted in America: The Battle for Baby L.

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The Does waited for weeks at Fort Pickett, hoping Mast would change his mind and bring R. back. But the base was only a temporary option; they had to resettle somewhere. Their Afghan friend had family in Texas, and the Does decided to follow him there.

The couple had started talking to the F.B.I. Aware of the agency’s tense history with Muslims, a volunteer at a resettlement organization recommended that the couple speak to agents with lawyers present. A chain of contacts led them to Sehla Ashai, an immigration attorney based in Dallas. They also connected with an experienced adoption lawyer in Virginia, Elizabeth Vaughan, who was initially skeptical. There are statutory safeguards for international adoptions, Vaughan told me, because it is “fraught with ethical problems.” Then she saw the court order.

In December 2020, as Mast sought a final adoption order, the Virginia court appointed a guardian ad litem, someone who would represent R.’s best interests during the proceedings to determine if the Masts should be her permanent guardians. I spoke with the person who served in this role, John David Gibson, a lawyer who has known Judge Moore for years. The case was unusual, he told me. “I didn’t know how it would fit into Virginia law,” he said. Gibson explained that he supported the Masts’ adoption based on the limited information he had: The baby’s birth parents died in a violent confrontation overseas, there were no other known relatives and the child had severe injuries. “There was no family to care for her,” he told me. Fluvanna County’s Department of Social Services had visited the Masts at their two-story home and determined them to be fit parents. This was strange, because R. was not with them at the time — she was not even in the United States. When I pressed Gibson, he repeated that he had little information. “If I knew the child’s parents were living or relatives were interested, I would have brought the issue to the court,” he said.

Last December, Vaughan, the adoption lawyer in Virginia, filed a petition on behalf of the Does to vacate the Masts’ adoption order. Ashai, the immigration attorney in Dallas, contacted the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department. She was met with little interest. As the Does and their lawyers started putting together their case, they discovered something else: Osmani, Mast’s interpreter, seemed to have misled them about his life. He was not Muslim, and his wife was not Turkish after all — she was an American named Natalie Gandy, whom Osmani met in Turkey. The couple live in Tennessee with Osmani’s three siblings and two children of their own. When I called Osmani in August and introduced myself, he hung up the phone. I tried again. “I don’t want to talk about anything,” he told me, and hung up again. I contacted his lawyer, Tyler Brooks, who also serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group that has pursued cases against abortion providers and filed legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election. After an initial message, Brooks stopped responding to queries.

This summer, I visited the Does in their home in Texas. They live in a small apartment compound off a highway. Debris floated in a swimming pool surrounded by broken chairs. John Doe found work at a milk factory, where he hauls crates onto trucks, sometimes late into the night. In the apartment, a crib stood in the living room, next to a small kitchen, where Jane Doe was baking bread. Their 9-month-old baby crawled from one person to the next, her hair bouncing. John tickled her and put her on his shoulders.

The hearings in the case to vacate the adoption order began in December, in a small courthouse amid the lush green hills of Virginia, before the same judge who approved the adoption, Richard Moore. Despite the challenge to their adoption, the Masts decided to share their story with others. In February, they traveled to Fredericksburg, Ohio, to tell a congregation of 300 people at the Mennonite Christian Assembly how they saved a child from Afghanistan. “Stories of rescue and redemption are always inspiring and encouraging,” John Risner, the assembly’s pastor, told me.

Several months after the hearings began, Joshua Mast suddenly sought a protective order to limit the Does’ access to information about the American couple. According to Ashai, the Does’ attorney in Texas, Mast claimed that John Doe had terrorist ties and that insurgent groups might retaliate against the Masts. This was a reversal from the Masts’ overtures to the government about the Afghan couple last year. In emails Richard Mast sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department during the evacuations, he explained that the Does “are helping US DoD at great risk to themselves.” They would be killed by the Taliban if they didn’t leave Afghanistan, he added.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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