Skokie family struggles to get daughter out of Haiti

February 12, 2010 3:24:42 PM PST
After last month's earthquake, a Haitian father living with his wife in Skokie traveled to his homeland to rescue their 2-year-old daughter who is living with relatives in Haiti. But he has not been able to get a visa for the toddler.

The pace of bureaucracy can be maddening, especially when there is a child involved. After the earthquake in Haiti, we've heard of American and Haitian officials easing restrictions to reunite families. Now we meet suburban parents hoping someone can cut through red tape to bring their daughter to the US.

The bed is made for Maulissa, but her parents are waiting for the little girl to arrive at her new home.

"It is such a bad thing that happened, and every day that goes by seems like a year," said Jean Onelien, father.

Maulissa will be 3 next month. She was born in Haiti and has been living with her aunt temporarily while her mother applied for citizenship in Chicago. But, since the earthquake, they've had to flee to the countryside, surviving under a makeshift tent. Last week, her father, a US citizen, went to Haiti to bring her home.

Jean Onelien says he was told the visa section of the US Embassy was closed and that Maulissa's visa could not be processed.

"It is not possible. A lot of people have tried to help, but it takes so long," said Onelien.

Maulissa's mom had a miscarriage the day she heard Maulissa was not coming home.

"My husband called me and told me Maulissa's not coming with him. I'm very upset because she's my daughter," said Marie Maude Onelien, mother.

Friends have joined in the campaign to bring Maulissa to Chicago.

Jean Onelien is a manager at a popular North Shore grocery store. Co-workers, customers, even strangers are trying to help the family reunite.

"We want to have the child home. The timing is critical," said Elaine Stolpe, Onelien's co-worker.

Onelien says relatives report people are getting sick. He fears many more lives will be lost, thus the urgency in his plea so his daughter won't be exposed.