Jheanelle Levene's flight from Kingston, Jamaica, to New York took four hours. Her trip actually began eight months ago.
On Monday night, the 4-year-old arrived with her adoptive mother at Kennedy International Airport after months of bureaucratic haggling that kept the girl stranded on the Caribbean island.The girl's adoptive mother, Angela Prime, said she was looking forward to taking Jheanelle shopping for a new bike Tuesday.
"I'm so ecstatic about everything," said the smiling mom. "It's been very hard going back and forth. I've been in agony."
A native Jamaican with legal U.S. residency, Prime had raised Jheanelle in New York since 1995, when the girl's mother died of cancer. Thieves stole the girl's passport and visa during a burglary of Prime's apartment in Queens in January 1997.
When Prime brought Jheanelle to Jamaica to finish adoption proceedings in June, U.S. officials told her they could not let the girl back into the United States unless she applied for residency - a process that could take years.
Prime took the case to two New York congressmen, and local newspapers also carried stories about Jheanelle, who stayed with family friends. Last week, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said it would grant the girl humanitarian parole.
Prime said that on the evening flight from Kingston to New York, Jheanelle was so happy, she said: "I believe I can fly."