By Jessica Boehm | Arizona Republic
Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, an elected official in charge of property valuation, is facing national scrutiny for his involvement in questionable adoptions from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, according to an investigation by Honolulu Civil Beat.
The non-profit media entity released a two-part investigation late last week questioning the legality of some practices by Petersen and other private adoption attorneys.
According to the report, Petersen arranges and pays for pregnant Marshallese women to fly to Utah and live in a four-bedroom house he owns outside of Salt Lake City. He then matches them with adoptive families.
The Compact of Free Associations, a treaty enacted in the early 2000s, prohibits Marshallese women considering an adoption plan for their children from traveling to the United States without a special visa.
The treaty was enacted to control black market adoptions from the Marshall Islands. Civil Beat reported that pregnant women, who did not understand the consequences of adoption, were rampantly exploited in the 1990s. Some were told that their children would return when they turned 18.
The travel restrictions were supposed to protect pregnant women. But, according to Civil Beat, some high-dollar adoption attorneys, including Petersen, have found a way around the law. Marshall Islands citizens not planning adoptions do not need visas to travel to the United States.
Petersen: “I follow… the laws”