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Utah woman's husband and adopted sons stuck in Africa due to travel restrictions

Posted at 6:51 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 20:52:57-04

TANZANIA — A Utah family is separated by 9,000 miles as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt travel worldwide in its tracks.

Tonya Hoopes works here in Utah, but her husband and their two boys are in Tanzania.

Tonya and her husband Mark started the adoption process five years ago, and three years ago Mark moved to Africa to be with them full time.

In December of last year, the adoption process was finalized and the couple started the visa process to bring them to the United States.

“We’re both U.S. citizens, so then at that time we went for the Tanzanian passport and we’re starting the visa process ... that’s when COVID-19 happened,” Tonya told FOX 13. “I’ve been pounding doors to try to allow someone to get them to come in.”

Hoopes tells us the country of Tanzania is close to closing their borders because of the pandemic.

“I don’t want them there for five more months. I don’t even want them there for two more weeks at this point, especially Tanzania is about to close their borders," she said. "I need to get them out on a flight and get them home.”

She along with other relatives, friends, and neighbors have been working with politicians like Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney’s offices, as well as the office of Gov. Gary Herbert to work with the State Department to allow them to grant an emergency visa.

While these types of visas are common, right now they are not being issued because of the pandemic.

“This is one of those situations where it sounds like it’s so unique and outside the box, you know? They're our boys, we're U.S. citizens, they’re not yet U.S. citizens, and so what does the State Department do?” Tonya said.

She says they talk everyday and continue to ask, "Mama, when are we coming to America?"

"You know, I go over several times a year, and when I left my youngest was saying, 'You promise you’re coming back soon or were coming to America, right?'”