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The Marshall Islands Government is pleased with recent arrests and pending cases in U.S. courts of adoption lawyers and fixers who have, for a long time, solicited unwitting young pregnant women into giving away their children in return for cash or tickets to the U.S.
Paul Petersen, the elected county assessor of Arizona’s Maricopa County, was arrested and charged with a number of offenses in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas in relation to an alleged international adoption scheme.
The charges against Petersen, also an adoption lawyer in Utah and Arizona, include communications fraud, human smuggling and the sale of a child. 28 Marshallese women were paid US$1,000 per month, with food and transportation covered by Petersen.
Some of these women were even promised US$10,000 to put up their unborn children for adoption. For adoptive families, they were charged up to US$35,000 per adoption according to court documents.
The Compact of Free Association allows entry-free visas for Marshallese traveling to the United States while barring entry for adoption purposes.
“Marshallese women have been induced by people like Petersen and his ilk for too long,” said President Heine.
“Although I am happy that the Government of the Marshall Islands, namely the Office of the Attorney-General, was able to provide assistance that led to these convictions, I believe there are other illegal adoption rings out there that must be stopped.
“I would like to thank relevant Government officials for their help, and Civil Beat for its persistence in keeping this crucial issue on the forefront”, the President added.
From 13 to 16 August, representatives from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney-General’s Office (Western District of Arkansas) and from the Utah Attorney-General’s Office were in Majuro to talk to Marshallese victims and witnesses of Petersen’s scheme.
The RMI Office of the Attorney-General and the Marshall Islands Police Department assisted them in this regard.
Pursuant to the Adoptions Act, 2002, international adoptions are allowed only in the Marshall Islands with the RMI High Court having original and exclusive jurisdiction to grant adoption of Marshallese children.
SOURCE: MARSHALL ISLANDS GOVT/PACNEWS
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