NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Congressman Steve Israel is calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the ban on Russian adoptions by American citizens.
Israel is proposing to cut U.S. aid to Russia if babies being adopted by American couples aren’t let out of the country.
“I will call for a review of every single penny of U.S. assistance to Russia,” Israel said. “Free these orphans and allow them to be adopted.”
The ban, which was signed into law on Dec. 28, is seen as retaliation for a new American law banning Russians accused of human rights violations from entering the U.S.
“President Putin is jeopardizing the future for thousands of Russian orphans and their adoptive parents here in the U.S. over a political disagreement with the Administration,” Israel said. “The adoption process is difficult enough for any family without adding international politics to the mix. Children should never be used as political pawns, but in this case that is exactly what’s happening.”
The ban has left hundreds of American couples like Dania and Nick Mavros of Little Neck, Queens in limbo.
The couple has been trying to adopt a 1-year-old boy named Ari. They visited Russia last month and met the child for the first time.
Dania Mavros said waiting to find out if they’ll be allowed to bring Ari home has been one of the most trying times in her life.
“Devastating does not capture the emotional roller coaster that we are enduring every day,” she said in a statement. “We try to keep our spirits up with the hope that our family will be united and our beautiful little boy does not have to grow up in an orphanage without the love of his Mommy and Daddy who are waiting for him in the United States.”
“He’s stranded there. We don’t know what’s going to happen to him. We’re not going to give up this fight. Never,” Dania Mavros told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
“We just want to bring the baby home,” Nick Mavros said. “If we don’t bring him home then it’s like you lost a child who you bonded with.”
Israel and nearly 50 members of Congress sent a letter to President Putin earlier this month urging him to allow families already in the adoption process to move forward.
Last week, the Russian Supreme Court agreed to allow adoptions that were approved before the ban took effect on Jan. 1 to proceed.
However, Israel said the decision does not clarify if families in the early stages of the adoption process will be allowed to advance.
Russia is currently home to more than 700,000 orphans, according to the Russian Children’s Welfare Society.