Advocate: Marshallese Women Have Given Birth, Left Arizona

Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 - 8:25am
Updated: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 - 12:46pm
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Matthew Casey/KJZZ
Claudia Kaercher, founder and president of the advocacy group Island Liaison.

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen is accused of running an illegal adoption scam.

The founder of an Arizona advocacy group helping Pacific Islanders says the pregnant Marshallese women police found when they arrested Petersen have all given birth to healthy babies and left Arizona.

The eight Marshallese women had been living with Petersen’s co-defendant, Lynwood Jennet, who pleaded guilty, and has agreed to testify against Petesen.

Claudia Kaercher founded the group Island Liaison, which stepped in to help the Marshallese women with healthcare. Kaercher said one of the women came here to babysit the kids of expecting mothers. Another already had her baby, but was blocked from leaving town on the day Petersen was arrested. The rest were all pregnant. Kaercher said they thought they’d get paid for doing an adoption.  

“They thought that they were going to receive their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after they gave birth,” she said. 

Kaercher said the women are all from outer parts of the Marshall Islands, where many people don’t understand the migration deal with the United States.

Kaercher said four of the Marshallese women chose to move forward with adoptions.