INS says no evidence orphans were brought to United States

The Associated Press
Thursday April 04, 2002

SANTA ANA — Federal immigration officials say there is no evidence that hundreds of Afghan women and children, including orphans, have been brought to the United States. 

Officials began investigating earlier this week when hundreds of California families said they applied to be foster parents to the orphaned children after receiving an e-mail from an aid agency. The e-mail said there were 529 Afghan women and children who were fleeing the fighting in Afghanistan. 

“The whole story that’s been presented so far defies logic,” Bill Strassberger, an Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman, told The Orange County Register for Wednesday’s paper. “We’ve checked and can find nothing that would verify claims regarding 529 Afghan women and children coming to the United States.” 

More than 350 people attended meetings in Los Angeles, San Jose and Garden Grove this weekend to sign up for foster care licenses.  

A Los Angeles-based Muslim social group that helped sponsor the meetings, NISWA, said it has been overwhelmed by the number of calls from prospective parents.  

The group is setting up additional meetings in San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona. 

But U.S. officials say there is no evidence any Afghan women or children were brought into the United States. Even NISWA officials said they have been unable to confirm the report. 

There has been no indication that families have been asked for money in exchange for custody of the children. 

The group that allegedly brought the group from Afghanistan, International Resources, has not returned telephone calls seeking comment. The California Department of Social Services said the organization is not a licensed adoption agency or a recognized adoption facilitator. 

But during a meeting last month, a woman who identified herself as Julie Fahrer said the organization had been working with military officials to bring children to the United States. She claimed some of the children were flown to Los Angeles at night and taken to a church. Some were later placed in homes, she said. 

Strassberger said the U.S. has admitted 200 Afghan refugees in the past six months.  

He said adoptions of foreign children nearly always requires arrangements to be made before children can enter the country.