Kuster Leads Letter With 96 Members Of Congress Urging Creation Of Humanitarian Program For Ukrainian Orphans
Washington, May 3, 2023
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined Reps. Jimmy Panetta (CA-19) and Joe Morelle (NY-25) in sending a bipartisan letter with 96 Members of Congress urging the Biden Administration to create a humanitarian program for the estimated 300 Ukrainian orphans who were involved in an adoption process with a U.S. family at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A humanitarian parole policy for certain Ukrainian orphans would provide these children respite in the United States for the duration of the war while maintaining Ukrainian sovereignty in matters of international adoption.
At the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, approximately 200 families in the United States were engaged in the process to adopt a child from Ukraine. The international adoption process takes several years and typically involves extensive vetting of potential parents by both U.S. and Ukrainian authorities. Following Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian government suspended its international adoption programs, leaving families unable to complete the adoption process. Children who had developed a relationship with their U.S. families were evacuated to shelters across Europe as a temporary reprieve from the dangers of the war.
“As members of Congress we have heard extensively from our constituents about their desire to support their prospective adoptive children during this historic crisis,” the members wrote. “Our constituents respect the international adoption process, and wish to offer an unequivocally temporary reprieve to children they view as members of their own families. These families represent the highest values of our country, and we ask that you support them by establishing a humanitarian parole policy for certain Ukrainian orphans.”
The Members requested the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State establish a similar program, in consultation with the Ukrainian government, to the program created in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Such action would allow established prospective adoptive parents who had completed a background security check, were formally in the process of adopting an orphaned child from Ukraine, and had a documented relationship with that child to initiate a case with DHS and sponsor the parole of that child.
Signing the letter are; Reps. Don Bacon (NE-02), Aaron Bean (TX-36), Donald Beyer (VA-08), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Mike Carey (OH-15), André Carson (IN-07), Troy Carter (LA-02), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), J. Lou Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-21), Danny Davis (IL-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11, Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Mike Ezell (MS-04), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Jared Golden (ME-02), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Garret Graves (LA-06), Andy Harris (MD-01), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mike Johnson (LA-04), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Thomas Kean (NJ-07), Mike Kelly (PA-16), Jennifer Kiggans (VA-02), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Ann Kuster (NH-02), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Nicholas Langworthy (NY-23), Robert Latta (OH-05), Barbara Lee (CA-12) Susie Lee (NV-03), Julia Letlow (LA-05), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted Lieu (CA-36), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), James McGovern (MA-02), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Alexander Mooney (WV-02), Blake Moore (UT-01), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Eleanor Norton (DC-AL), Jay Obernolte (CA-23), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Marie Perez (WA-03), Katie Porter (CA-47), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), John Rutherford (NJ-05), Patrick Ryan (NY-18), Mary Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Bradley Schneider (IL-10), Hillary Scholten (MI-03), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Austin Scott (GA-08), Robert Scott (VA-03), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Christopher Smith (NJ-04), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Greg Stanton (AZ-04), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Eric Swalwell (CA-14),Mark Takano (CA-39), Claudia Tenney (NY-24), Dina Titus (NV-01), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), David Trone (MD-06), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Brad Wenstrup (OH-02), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Susan Wild (PA-07), Brandon Williams (NY-22), Joe Wilson (SC-02), and Robert Wittman (VA-01).
The full letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas:
We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security implement a humanitarian parole policy for certain Ukrainian orphans, in consultation with the Department of State and the Government of Ukraine. The proposed program, outlined below, would employ the same statutory authority as the Humanitarian Parole Policy for Certain Haitian Orphans, announced and implemented in 2010, which served roughly 1,200 orphan children. A new, narrower program would provide a time-limited safe haven specifically for the estimated 300 Ukrainian orphans who were involved in an adoption process with a U.S. family at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A humanitarian parole policy for certain Ukrainian orphans would provide these children respite in the United States for the duration of the war while maintaining Ukrainian sovereignty in matters of international adoption.
While evacuating these children to shelters in Europe was a reasonable temporary step, after more than a year of conflict and continued uncertainty about the duration of the war, the humanitarian parole program should be implemented to serve affected Ukrainian orphans and the U.S. families who wish to offer them a loving home. Many of the affected families have contacted our offices asking for a way they can offer a proven safe, stable environment to their prospective adoptive children until the Ukrainian government resumes its adoption process. We believe there is precedent to achieve this through parole, a statutory authority the administration is currently exercising to welcome displaced Ukrainian adults and which the U.S. has repeatedly employed to welcome persons in need during times of crisis.
Your agencies were presented with a similar challenge following the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti. Many U.S. families who had been in the process of adopting a child from Haiti wished to provide temporary respite to their adopted child in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. In response, on January 18, 2010, DHS announced a Humanitarian Parole Policy for Certain Haitian Orphans. Under this program, children who, prior to the earthquake, had been confirmed with certain conditions by the Haitian government as orphans eligible for international adoption were allowed to enter the United States temporarily. In this case, the Obama-Biden administration evaluated children’s situations on a case-by-case basis under its parole authority.
We ask DHS and the State Department to establish a similar program, in consultation with the Ukrainian government, to allow established prospective adoptive parents who, as of February 24, 2022, had completed a background security check, were formally in the process of adopting an orphaned child from Ukraine, and had a documented relationship with that child to initiate a case with DHS and sponsor the parole of that child. This program would be similar to the Humanitarian Parole Policy for Certain Haitian Orphans but with narrower eligibility parameters. This program would be temporary in nature, offering parole for periods of one to two years, consistent with other humanitarian parole programs, and limited to the roughly 300 children estimated to have been in the formal process of intercountry adoption at the outbreak of the war. We believe this action should be taken with urgency and without any further delay.
While the administration has statutory authority to independently offer parole to a defined group through a special humanitarian parole program, we respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, the custody it exercises over orphans in its charge, and the authority the Ukrainian government exercises to determine its independent adoption policies. We recognize that any humanitarian parole program offered to Ukrainian orphans, as wards of the state, must be announced and implemented in full cooperation and coordination with the Ukrainian government. To that end, we request the State Department to work with its partners in the Ukrainian government to secure its support and consent for this proposal. We also respect your departments' authority and discretion in this matter, and are eager to work with DHS and the State Department to find the best options for the children and U.S. families affected by this situation.
As members of Congress we have heard extensively from our constituents about their desire to support their prospective adoptive children during this historic crisis. Our constituents respect the international adoption process, and wish to offer an unequivocally temporary reprieve to children they view as members of their own families. These families represent the highest values of our country, and we ask that you support them by establishing a humanitarian parole policy for certain Ukrainian orphans. We thank you for your consideration and stand ready to assist you in this critical effort.