Fifty-seven-year-old Pius Bannis, a Dominican-born immigration officer at the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince, has been praised by at least one major international newspaper for his humanitarian work in Haiti following the devastating quake on January 12, 2010.
According to the Wall Street Journal (World) article dated January 29, 2010, Bannis, who had been responsible for determining which orphans are matched to US families and permit them to leave Haiti before the devastating quake, had taken an even tougher challenge by continuing his task after the quake.
The article highlighted Bannis for his work in providing the possibility for a safe environment for Haitian orphans after the January 12, disaster.
According to the paper, Bannis had been allowing hundreds of orphans to be sent to the US to families since the quake by putting cases together from assembled rubble from the quake.
“Some 500 Haitian orphans have been cleared since then. Several hundred are already in the U.S., after passing through Mr. Bannis,” the article said.
“Hundreds of children have been brought to him since the quake, some only a few months old, others in their teens. With many of the country’s orphanages damaged or destroyed, Mr. Bannis often pieces together cases assembled from records extracted from the rubble,” the article said.
The article said that the Castle Bruce-born officer sleeps very few hours at night and usually in his office.
“He’s the last thing standing between these kids and human trafficking,” says Diana Boni, Haiti’s coordinator for Kentucky Adoption Services, a non-profit adoption agency based in Owensboro, Ky., who added that Mr. Bannis has answered her emails at 1:30 a.m. “Pius deserves a medal,” the article stated.”
According to the paper, Bannis’s working conditions were dire. “The consular waiting area, which normally draws adults seeking visas to the US, has turned into an orphans-only waiting room,” he said.
“At times, it’s hard to concentrate because “it’s a screaming world in that waiting room,” the article said.
The Wall Street Journal said that Bannis has even taken the responsibility of being a temporary parent to the orphans.
“He sometimes emerges from behind his service window to fetch diapers, toys or drinks for the waiting orphans. The other day, Mr. Bannis said he went searching for a change of clothes for a baby who was soiled,” the article said.
The article stated that, the immigration agency’s chief, Alejandro Mayorkas commended Bannis by stating, “There is no better example of the character of our Agency than Pius Bannis, our colleague in Haiti.”
When asked about his work Bannis said, “I’m a little tired…But it’s very satisfying to see the smile on an orphan’s face.”
According to the article Bannis is a career officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a Caribbean immigrant to the U.S. from Dominica.
He is a lawyer by profession and moved to Port-au-Prince from Atlanta in August 2008 to work as an agency field-office director.