HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- At just 3 years old, Grace and Kaleb Okwuonu know their mom and dad love them very much, but have no idea how hard their parents have worked to make them a family.
"Mommy and Daddy adopted us, and Mommy and Daddy are going to love us forever and ever," Grace said recently on a video her mother sent us from Nigeria.
Geoff and his wife Kristi Okwuonu are high school sweethearts from Houston. On Thanksgiving Day in 2018, the couple flew to Abuja, Nigeria to adopt Grace and Kaleb. They thought it was going to be a quick trip, and so did their friends.
"After exhausting all attempts to have children of our own and adopting domestically, we looked into international adoption in my parents' birth country," said Geoff from their temporary home in Nigeria.
For reasons still unclear to the Okwuonus, the U.S. government has so far refused to issue their children visas, despite the adoption being official and the couple's names being on the children's birth certificates.
"We thought, she's going to be back after the holidays, so we're going to see these babies and be a part of that," said a childhood friend Marty Lundstrum. "So for her to have been gone for this long, is a shock."
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Kristi speculates the delay may be due to the Trump administration's ban on travel from many Muslim countries or its known efforts to reduce immigration.
The couple has worked with attorneys, their adoption agency and other experts, but so far, have not gotten any solid answers.
"I think it's tough for both of us in the beginning," said Kristi, a licensed real estate agent in Houston. "We have mixed emotions. Sadness being away from home, lots of wondering why we're in this situation."
The Okwuonus have tried to work remotely during their time in Nigeria, Kristi even listing houses for sale remotely. Occasionally, they've had to make ends meet with a GoFundMe, but they are not leaving Nigeria without their children.
"They are just the best couple. They have known each other forever. They worked so hard just to be parents," said Lundstrum, adding there is a full and supportive network of friends eager to help the family once they can return to America.
Through all of the uncertainty, the children have been the best.
"They're awesome. They really are such fun," said Kristi. "They have learned all their ABCs, colors, numbers and shapes so it's been a mini-private school here."
As the family gets ready to spend their third Christmas away from Houston, patience is wearing thin.
"We're ready to home to Houston, Texas, and be with our family and friends," Kristi said.
The Okwuonus have just applied for another set of visas for their children. They hope that with the new administration coming in, the U.S. immigration service will look more favorably at their case.
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Houston couple stuck in Nigeria trying to bring adopted kids home
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