For Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Russia’s decision to bar Americans from adopting orphans from the country is an issue of not only diplomatic significance, but also of personal meaning.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the bill into law, Blunt, who adopted a son from Russia several years ago, partnered with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to send letters to President Barack Obama and Putin, urging the two to work diplomatically to allow the adoption of children who have already been matched with adoptive parents.
On Jan. 22, the Russian Supreme Court ruled adoptions legally finalized before Jan. 1 will be allowed to go through, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced.
Blunt and Landrieu are against the ban altogether, but once the law took effect, they focused on making sure orphans whose adoptions were legally approved would be allowed to come to America.
“I think our first priority, frankly, is to get these kids here who have met their family and who have already in so many ways become part of their family,” Blunt said.
More than 70 members of Congress signed the letters.
In a speech to the Senate on Dec. 31, Blunt said the ban was heart-wrenching for families in the final stages of adopting. When the ban went into effect, their cases were in legal limbo.
Blunt mentioned a St. Louis family who had traveled to Russia multiple times to meet the child they wanted to adopt. A Russian judge approved the adoption and the family was in the middle of a mandatory 30-day waiting period before the child could join them in America. After the ban went into effect, the Russian government said the couple could no longer adopt the child.
Due to the more recent Supreme Court ruling, the St. Louis family will now be allowed to adopt the child. Many Russian orphans in limbo have already left the country, although exact figures on how many remain are not available at this time, according to the embassy.
The Supreme Court ruling came at the urging of Congress along with the State Department and outside groups.
“We’re obviously now working intensively with the Russians to try to work through what we can do about these cases that were already entrain,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said prior to the ruling. “Our intent is to have as many of these children able to join loving families as possible.”
Before sending the letters, Blunt and Landrieu introduced a resolution condemning Russia for instigating the adoption ban. The bipartisan resolution passed unanimously in the Senate.
According to the resolution, there are currently 110,000 children in state-run Russian orphanages. Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children in the last 20 years.
Blunt criticized the Russian government for politicizing orphans who could potentially find homes with Americans.
“The Russian government has decided once again to use Russian kids in orphanages as political pawns to help create some international dispute with the United States,” he said.
The ban, which the Russian Duma proposed in December, came in response to a human rights provision included in a Russian trade bill Congress passed and Obama signed in December. According to a news release from Blunt’s office, the provision, known as the Magnitsky Act, held Russian officials responsible for the illegal imprisonment and murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Blunt supported the provision and the trade agreement.