Reproduced with permission from The Christian Science Monitor.
"What's happening with Bill's sister?" More than a year after the Little Bill Clinton series officially ended, I still hear that question all the time from readers. Today, we finally have some answers – as well as a new story in this week's Monitor magazine about an exciting development in Bill's life, and big changes in his family.
You may remember Bill's long-lost sister, Neema John, and his nephew, Toni Joseph, whom I visited in Tanzania in 2009. Neema was separated from her family when they resettled in Atlanta, and since 2007, her parents have been fighting to reunite with her in a legal saga plagued by uncertainty and delays. But over time, as deadlines have come and gone, their reunification case has made creeping progress. In August 2009, US Immigration finally approved now-22-year-old Neema to join her family.
But now-6-year-old Toni was another matter. On the advice of Chau Ly, the family reunification specialist at their resettlement agency, his grandparents applied for humanitarian parole for Toni – the same legal status that was granted to Haitian orphans who came to the US after the earthquake. The application documented the boy's unstable living situation, and his grandparents' ability to support him.
In April 2010, US Immigration sent a letter demanding that Toni and Neema take DNA tests to prove their relationship. The family was ecstatic, assuming the process was nearly complete and that they would soon be reunited. The grandparents paid for a DNA test to be sent to the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Tony and Neema went there to take it.But they never got past the gate.
According to Cedra Eaton, consul at the embassy, the procedure requires that Toni have a Tanzanian passport before he can be tested. He can't legally obtain one, though, because his Rwandan refugee mother has no legal status in Tanzania, and his father is an unknown rapist. This September, US Immigration sent a letter saying that if it didn't receive the DNA results within 30 days, Neema's case would be denied.Mr. Ly wrote back, begging for an exception to the passport rule. The UN refugee agency can issue travel documents that count as a passport. One may be in the works now for Neema and Toni, who recently dropped off a photo there, and have been asked to return on Jan. 5.
If they are able to take the DNA test, and US Immigration approves Tony's humanitarian parole application, only visa applications and fees, medical clearances, and a visa interview at the embassy will stand between Tony and Neema and a family reunion.
Meantime, the test waits on one side of the embassy gate, and Bill Clinton Hadam's sister and nephew wait on the other.