New York Senator Chuck Schumer has pledged to resolve problems encountered by Americans living in Israel who are being denied US passports for their newborns.
The United States seems to have created new roadblocks for American families who need to obtain documents for newborn children so they can travel to the US.
In addition to denying entry to parents who arrived from across Israel this week for appointments to obtain those documents, “The Department of State has suspended the video CRBA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad) program pilot worldwide,” according to the US Embassy website.
The issue dates back to a February 6 announcement of a new appointment system by the US Embassy in Israel.
“Every Wednesday between 3 – 4 pm, new appointments will be released for the following week. Presently, appointments are showing for June, July and August as well,” according to the Chaim V’Chessed organization.
“Appointments can be made via this link only. One can choose between an appointment at the Embassy in Jerusalem or the Branch Office in Tel Aviv. You will be shown available dates and times to choose from, after which you must enter the applicant’s name, an email address and phone number. You will receive an email confirmation of your appointment. The appointment must be confirmed via the link emailed to you in order to confirm that you will be attending your appointment.”
However, on March 10, the Embassy announced new changes to the system.
“Until now, emergency passports had been offered to “those who have immediate travel to the United States and need an in-person appointment for an emergency passport….. “ And according to the announcement, one could define the need for emergency travel.
But as of March 10, that option was canceled and emergency passports will now only be granted to those who have been previously documented as US citizens — which of course precludes parents from applying for emergency passports for their newborns.
“The Embassy announcement states that the Embassy does not view ‘bringing a new baby to meet US relatives as an emergency’ (sic). Sadly, this new change basically closes the only avenue available to those with newborn children seeking to travel to their native United States for Pesach,” Chaim V’Chessed noted.
The announcement comes in direct contradiction to advice offered by the embassy on its website, which “strongly recommends that parents apply for the CRBA as soon as possible after the child’s birth . . . We recommend that you submit an application for your child’s US passport and social security number at the same time. Both applications may be submitted together at your scheduled appointment.”
This week, numerous couples were denied entry to the US Embassy for such appointments, some of them having travelled for hours from across the country.
The workers told the frustrated parent they were being denied entry due to the new rule that prohibits issuance of an emergency passport for anyone without previously documented US citizenship.
When challenged, the embassy workers became aggressive and threatened to “call security” if the applicants did not leave. There were reports of similar encounters at the embassy’s Tel Aviv branch office as well.
US citizens typically apply for such a document, which details the birth of a US citizen, soon after birth – but in recent months it has been nearly impossible to obtain appointments at the embassy.
Appointments for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and first-time passports for newborns in Israel are scarce and hard to come by,” the Chaim V’Chessed organization points out on its website.
Schumer acknowledged the problem in his remarks, and said his office is “working on getting it done.” He did not, however, promise that the issue would be resolved in time for Passover.
“Nothing is more important than family and I know that you have children who are married … and they want to come home for Pesach,” Schumer told members of the Agudath Israel Leadership Mission in Washington DC in remarks delivered this week.
“They want to come back to America to be with their mishpacha (‘family’ in Hebrew) for Pesach … so we’re working on getting that done,” Schumer said.
Chaim V’Chessed has been in contact with elected officials from both Houses of Congress and across the political spectrum, as have other community organizations in Israel and the US, including the Amudim organization led by Rabbi Zvi Gluck.
Agudath Israel of America submitted a letter to Schumer’s office as a follow-up to the discussion, noting that the organization “has been working alongside numerous Jewish humanitarian groups both in the United States and in Israel to assist US citizens living in Israel in obtaining appointments for first-time US passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for their children born in Israel.”
The organization wrote in the letter that “ahead of the busy pre-Passover travel season, when these families always travel to spend the holiday with family in the US, decisions made by the US Embassy in Israel have turned this process into a humanitarian concern.”
The average wait time for appointments for CRBA and first-time passports for newborns “is now a disturbing four to five months,” Agudah pointed out.
“Until this week, families with travel documents confirming immediate travel plans were offered the possibility to obtain emergency passports for newborns. However, this option was abruptly cancelled on Mar 13, leaving no avenue for these families to return to the US for Passover.”
Amudim and Chaim V’Chessed have jointly launched a webpage to collect data from families encountering the problem, for submission to the relevant agencies.