Grace Alshemmari had never left the United States before, but when her husband, an Iraqi refugee, wanted to visit his ailing mother, she said OK. She’d be home, she thought, in time to deliver her little boy back in the good old US of A.
Except she wasn’t. At thirty-five weeks pregnant, Grace Alshemmari was told she couldn’t get on an Iraqi Airways jet to fly back to the United States. She was stuck in Iraq for the rest of her pregnancy. In May 2008, she gave birth via C-section in an Iraqi hospital to baby Amir, a week late.
Now Grace is home in Indiana, and her son’s stuck in Iraq. She’s been told the only way to get the baby out of the country is by visiting the US embassy in Baghdad, but her husband’s family has warned that it’s much too dangerous for an American citizen in Baghdad right now. She’d be putting herself – and the baby – in mortal danger. The family made attempts to file the necessary paperwork in another Iraqi city and at an embassy in Jordan, but again they were pointed to Baghdad.
So Grace came home in September, hoping she could reach out to the American government from within the borders rather than across the globe. She’s been told the State Department can’t help her – she has to follow procedures that were set in place to ward against “baby smuggling.” They want to verify the baby is truly a U.S. citizen before they let her bring Amir home.
I’m still not sure I’d get on a plane and fly to a war-torn country when I was six months pregnant – sick mother-in-law or no sick mother-in-law. But for family, it’s hard to say what you will and won’t do until you’re there. Can you really blame her for supporting her husband in his time of need?
As for the baby smuggling – what ever happened to checking with the Iraqi hospital? If they confirm this woman gave birth, do they really think she’s going to sneak someone else’s baby into the country and leave her own stranded in Iraq? Or here’s a crazy thought – how about State Department officials work FOR an American citizen instead of against one? They have the means to travel within the country with military protection. How about they travel to the Alshemmari’s family’s home in Najaf, where the baby is currently living, and confirm his existence and his resemblance to his mother. If they so wish, they can pluck a few hairs and send them off for DNA testing to confirm this baby is REALLY the child of an American citizen.
A part of me can’t help but wonder, is Grace, the American citizen, being penalized for being married to an Iraqi?
Image: Yahoo (1 – Grace and Amir. 2. Grace and Raad Alshemmari’s elder child, Karina, holds a picture of baby brother Amir)