In an abrupt volte-face, the American embassy in Jerusalem is again scheduling appointments for emergency passports for young children traveling to the United States, following congressional pressure on the issue.
The change came less than a week after the embassy unilaterally announced that emergency passport appointments for urgent travel to the United States would only be valid for previously documented U.S. citizens, stranding hundreds of Americans in Israel with young children who wanted to visit family for Passover.
The weeklong holiday begins on the evening of April 5.
The policy back and forth served to highlight the hardships Americans in Israel face to get a regular appointment with the embassy to register children born abroad, which often takes up to six months. The emergency passports were a solution for some to this larger, unresolved staffing shortage problem.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) penned a scathing letter on the issue to Secretary of State Antony Blinken after being contacted by constituents and Jewish groups.
The lawmaker called the situation “unacceptable,” and asked whether this problem was affecting American citizens in other foreign countries as well.
“The inability for US citizens to schedule timely appointments and acquire a passport is simply unacceptable when people have a need for travel,” he wrote in the March 17 letter.
“U.S. citizens in Israel are encountering inexplicable difficulties obtaining passports,” Blumenthal tweeted. “These seemingly unnecessary obstacles are deeply frustrating before the Passover holiday. I am demanding that the State Department end these delays.”
A bipartisan group of seven congressmen sent a separate letter to the State Department demanding answers regarding the policy change.
In their March 16 missive, Reps. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), Marcus Molinaro (R-N.Y.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) expressed “deep concern” about the delays and staffing shortages at the embassy in Jerusalem, particularly over registering children born abroad, after many of their constituents reached out to their offices.