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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Set My Children Free

by John J. Brannigan

I came to Guatemala almost by accident in 2002. I was on my sailboat, headed for parts unknown and needed supplies, so I came to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

Guatemala is a very beautiful country, and I was enchanted with the rivers, jungles and mountains. I met a young girl, who was washing laundry in the river Cienaga and I was enchanted with "Marylou". At first we couldn't talk much because of the language problem, but we worked that out by me, learning some Spanish and her, learning some English. After a few months of meeting at the laundry rock, I was invited to her house to meet her family. Needless to say it wasn't the warmest reception I've ever had , but after a time we worked this problem out. Now I get along with her family very well.

After a few more months Marylou moved aboard my sailboat and we became husband and wife, not through a government sanctioned ceremony, but by consent, of her, myself and her parents.

A year later we had our first child, Tania Marisol Brannigan. Being a U. S. citizen Tania received a U. S. passport and birth certificate. We applied for a visitors visa for the U. S. for Marylou. We visited my relatives in the states and went to Disneyland in California, then returned to Guatemala as agreed in Marylou's visa. Life was very good for us and we traveled a good deal in central America.

When we came back to Guatemala, we decided it was time to have a brother or sister for Tania to grow up with. We reasoned that being an only child, was not the healthiest environment for her. The problem was I had a vasectomy many years ago and more then likely it could not be reversed.

We heard of a doctor in Guatemala city that might be able to help. Dr. Emlio Novales Aguirre, Clinica Centro Procrea, located about five blocks from the Embassy. So we went for consultation and testing. As a result we discovered that I was unable to produce. The doctor suggested artificial insemination. This did not set well with me for a time, but after much discussion, I agreed it was our only solution. After several more trips to the city and a selection of a suitable donor the time was right for the insemination. I was there for the total process and held Marylou's hand during the whole procedure. This was a very humiliating experience for both of us, but we wanted a child so badly we went on with it. It never occurred to me that my child would be refused U.S. citizenship.

Thirty days later, after a home pregnancy test, it was back to the city to be sure. Mary was pregnant with triplets. Because of the great expense of the procedure the doctor gave Mary fertility drugs to insure the pregnancy, they really work. "We were delighted".

Thirty days later we are back in the city for a pre-natal visit when we learned that we had lost one of triplets. This scared me to no end and caused a lot of sleepless nights for both of us. Thirty days later its back to the city for another prenatal exam and everything is great for the fraternal twins. I have never been happier in my life, we are not only having a baby, but two of them a girl and a boy and thanks to the best doctor and pre-natal you can get in Guatemala they are healthy.

After thirteen trips to the city in ten months the time has come. Because of the size of the twins it was suggested that cesarean birth was best for the babies and Mary, so we opted for a private hospital in Puerto Barrios, a city eighty miles away, but much closer than Guatemala city. All though we wanted to have our doctor in the city perform the operation, we felt the trip that close to term would be to much of a hardship on Mary and the twins. We had a choice of birth dates, so we decided on the fourth of July, I have always been very proud of being an American, what better day for an American to be born then on the 4th of July. The big day is upon us and I am in the operating room for the event. "NEVER AGAIN" I am not a weak person, but watching someone you love go through that operation is not something I want to do again. First out is Martha Luisa, she didn't even cry. What a pleasant baby she is, and a joy for me just to hold that tiny child in my arms. Next is John James Brannigan my first son kicking and wailing like a banshee, I break down with tears of joy, it is just to much. I can not believe that God has been so good to me, so late in life. In a quiet room I reflect my life and can not think of one thing that I have done to deserve such benevolence. The twins are beautiful and healthy, more then I can ask for and I am so proud. "Pride goeth before the fall"

We leave the hospital with the twins birth certificates in hand. Two Guatemalan birth certificates naming me as the father. Then its off to Guatemala City again with the twins, Tania, Marylou and Marylou's sister to register the babies as U.S. citizens born abroad. There is a glitch in the paperwork, Registered birth certificate, so it is necessary to return two weeks later with the paper work corrected. The paper work is turned in and the three hundred dollar fee is paid, nearly one third of my monthly income from S.S. and we wait for three and one half hours for an interview. The paper work is reviewed and all is in order. I also sign a letter of responsibility for the twins until they are eighteen years old. At what I think is the end of the interview the immigration official informs me that the babies and I will have to have DNA testing to prove that I am the biological father. Of course we can not do that we have an anonymous donor. The donor is a college student at the University of Guatemala, the doctor does not have his identity as well. That is all we know. Without DNA the embassy official refuses the U.S. birth certificates and refuses to refund the three hundred dollar fee we gave for the birth certificates and passports. I do not think this fair or humane. I can not believe that my government would recognize a twenty minute sexual experience as being more important then what we have gone through to have these two beautiful babies. The embassy official tells me I am not the father of these children, I ask what constitutes a father, someone who will love and cherish his children and will do all in his power to provide and protect them or someone who had a sexual experience and may or may not do the same.

At this time an election year, I watch the news on television CNN, FOX and the rest. Last night at the democratic national convention I heard the phrase HUMAN RIGHTS used no less then fifty times, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and others. Third world assistance was mentioned several times. I sit here at my computer and wonder what these words politicians use, really mean, none of them has more then visited a third world country, let alone lived in one. I do not think they have a clue as to what is going on in the real world. Lets wait and see what the Republicans have to say. I am a proud American that can not afford to live in his own country.

My children biological or not are being denied U.S. citizenship and these are my children. We prepared for them, we paid for them, we have bought property and are building a house for them here in Guatemala. I have sold my sailboat and we used that money to buy property and start building a house here in Rio Dulce. With my S.S. benefits we can live in Guatemala and we will never be a burden on U.S. society, but I want my children to have the opportunity to go to Texas A&M like their older sisters and my grandchildren who happened to be born in The U.S.

I see other Americans come to Guatemala every time I have to go to The U.S. Embassy, they are here to buy babies. They call it adoption, but they pay as much as forty thousand U.S for this adoption. These same people can not qualify, or will not go through the procedure required for adoption in the U.S. Young girls in Guatemala are given ten thousand Quetzales, $1333.00 or less for their babies, the lighter the skin the more they are paid. The remainder of the money goes to the baby mills and lawyers. Visit an orphanage in Guatemala, you will see very few Indian babies. The healthier the baby the more they cost. This does not count the kidnapping and baby stealing that goes on in Guatemala. None the less these babies leave with U.S. passports and birth certificates.

This is not my point. My point is for "humanitarian reasons" I want my children to be U.S. citizens. I have pictures and documentary proof of all these things, sonograms on disc, Doctors statements and anything else that might be needed. We do not want to live in the states, but we want the opportunity to visit relatives and friends who accept these children as AMERICANS. Is it possible to have this matter reviewed by a higher authority. What other course of action must I take. I need advise in English, something I can understand, I will not take no for an answer. These are my children and I will fight till my last breath to see that they are recognized as U.S. citizens born abroad. I will not go away quietly. Adoption is not an option. I am already their recognized father by Guatemalan authority. I have talked to several lawyers and an orphanage to seek advice, to no avail they have never encountered a problem like this. One suggested I write my congressman, another suggested I write to some newspapers in the States. The problem with this is I have lived here so long I don't have a congressman and I don't trust newspapers. I became very angry while talking to the immigration officer, I apologize for that, anger has never solved anything. Please give this your utmost attention, I have nowhere else to turn. I feel there is an injustice. I don't think this is human. I am sixty-eight years old, I am very healthy, but should I die soon what is to become of my children. Poverty, despair and uneducated and nowhere to turn. Had I known of the DNA requirement we would have reconsidered having more children, but we can't put them back. What difference could it possible make to the United States Government if two beautiful healthy babies that I love and cherish become U.S. Citizens.


About The Author

John J. Brannigan was born at Pittsburgh, PA. He worked as a Commercial Pilot, Engineering Project Manager Military Construction Contracts, He served four years in the military as a Service Honorable discharged, he became a long distance single handed sailor. He lived in several states and country like, PA, Ohio, Texas, California, Guam and Guatemala.


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