Senator Corker, Colleagues Urge President Obama To Personally Engage On Congolese Adoption Delays

Friday, July 18, 2014

In a letter to President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined 167 members of Congress in asking the president for his “personal engagement to resolve over 900 international adoption cases of Congolese children who either have been or are in the process of being adopted by American families, yet who are unable to obtain Congolese exit permits due to a suspension in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).” 

“We respectfully request that you raise this human rights crisis with President Kabila prior to his attendance at the U.S.-African Leaders Summit next month, and then use the opportunity of the summit to press for a firm resolution,” wrote the members of Congress. “We would appreciate your leadership on this issue to help unite these children and their families.” 

In September 2013, the DRC suspended the issuance of exit permits for children adopted by foreign parents. Over 145 children who have been legally adopted by U.S. families and have been given Congolese passports and U.S. visas await exit letters, including several children with urgent, life-threatening medical problems. 

Advocacy groups indicate at least 23 families in the Volunteer State are affected by the DRC’s halt on adoptions. Senator Corker has met with several Tennessee families in various stages of the adoption process and continues to work towards a solution that will bring the children home to the United States. Senator Corker’s staff has also met with State Department officials, including the U.S. ambassador to the DRC and the DRC’s ambassador to the U.S., to discuss a resolution to this issue. 

Senator Corker is a cosponsor of a resolution authored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) calling on the DRC to resume the exit letter process that has been stalled for nearly a year. In April, SenatorCorker wrote to the president and prime minister of the DRC to request an end to delays in processing adoptions. As of today, there has been no response from the Congolese government.

Below is a copy of the letter:

Dear President Obama, 

We write to ask for your personal engagement to resolve over 900 international adoption cases of Congolese children who either have been or are in the process of being adopted by American families, yet who are unable to obtain Congolese exit permits due to a suspension in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We understand that you have invited President Joseph Kabila to Washington in August for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, and we urge you to use this event and the time leading up to it as an opportunity to press for an expeditious resolution that is in the best interest of these children. 

In September 2013, the DRC suspended the issuance of exit permits for children adopted by foreign parents, reportedly due to concerns about suspected malfeasance in the local DRC adoption process and lack of information about the well-being of adopted children after they arrived in their new homes.  This suspension is having tragic consequences for these children as they wait to be united with their American families.  Already, 10 children who were matched with American families have died since the suspension went into place and many more have urgent, life-threatening medical problems. There are 148 children who have been legally adopted by US families and have been given Congolese passports and U.S. visas, but are still waiting for exit letters to be able to leave the DRC. 

Overcoming this impasse is a priority for many in Congress and we appreciate the State Department’s efforts to raise this issue with its Congolese counterparts. In April of this year, a bipartisan and bicameral group of 170 Members of Congress wrote to President Kabila and Prime Minister Matata Ponyo, urging the DRC government to resume processing exit permits for adopted children. To date, there has been no official response to this letter. Secretary Kerry raised this issue directly with President Kabila during his visit to Kinshasa in May and later that month the DRC government did release exit letters for 19 children adopted by American families, 4 of whom were medically fragile. Unfortunately, this represented only a small percentage of the completed cases and leaves dozens of critically ill children without the medical care they need to survive. The U.S. Department of State has continuously engaged the Congolese government to resolve the remaining completed cases, but to date all overtures have been unsuccessful. For example, when the DRC Director of General Migration (DGM) Francois Beya visited the United States in June, he received multiple requests for meetings ranging from State Department officials to Members of Congress. Mr. Beya declined to schedule any meetings on the suspended exit permit issue. That is why we are requesting your direct engagement with President Kabila. 

We respectfully request that you raise this human rights crisis with President Kabila prior to his attendance at the U.S.-African Leaders Summit next month, and then use the opportunity of the summit to press for a firm resolution.  We would appreciate your leadership on this issue to help unite these children and their families.  

Thank you for your attention to this important request. 

Sincerely,




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