Relatives of American Hostages Around Globe Question Biden's Commitment to Their Release

The relatives of 26 Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained in other countries wrote a letter to President Joe Biden where they questioned his dedication to securing their release, the Associated Press reported. The family members wrote that Biden's administration appeared to be getting stalled by "burdensome processes or policy debates" that hinder the hostages' chance at freedom and claimed they were kept "uninformed of what you can and cannot do to help us."

"We need to be shown that the promises of your administration to prioritize the return of our family members are not empty. Now is the time for action. Now we need you to bring our fellow Americans home," the letter said.

One of the letter's signers was the mother of Trevor Reed, an American Marine who was jailed in Moscow for allegedly assaulting a police officer in Russia, the AP reported. The sister of Mark Frerichs, an American contractor abducted in Afghanistan in early 2020, and the wife of Jeffry Woodke, an aid work stolen from his home in Niger in 2016, also signed.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Hostages' Families Send Letter to Biden
The relatives of 26 Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained in other countries wrote a letter to President Joe Biden where they questioned his dedication to securing their release. Biden delivers remarks during the 10th anniversary celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial near the Tidal Basin on the National Mall on October 21 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The letter reflects growing concerns within the hostage community that the Biden administration's foreign policy agenda does not prioritize the release of hostages, and that legal and political actions have complicated rather than advanced efforts to get captives released. In some cases, the letter to Biden asserts, the families feel as if they're in a "worse" situation now than eight months ago.

The Biden team has been short on high-profile detainee and hostages releases so far. It was an area of keen interest to President Donald Trump, who in keeping with his unconventional approach to foreign policy appeared open to outside-the-box machinations with regard to hostage negotiations, such as a high-level but ultimately unsuccessful trip to Damascus aimed at getting journalist Austin Tice home. He also invited American captives who'd been freed during his administration to appear with him at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

The families noted in the letter that they were optimistic following a February call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Since then, though, they said they have been unable to meet with Biden or with his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, "which leads us to believe that your administration is not prioritizing negotiations and other methods to secure their release.

"When we do meet with other officials we feel we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones," the letter said.

The White House had no immediate comment Monday.

"We have heard a lot of positive talk about making Mark and the other cases a national priority, but we are not seeing actions to bring them home," Frerichs's sister, Charlene Cakora, said in a statement to the AP. "There are solutions for many of these cases—including my brother's, which could have been solved last summer—but we are not sensing any urgency on the part of the White House. For families, every second a loved one is kept detained is an eternity."

Others who signed included the families of nine Americans jailed in Venezuela, who joined together more than a week ago in a separate critical letter of the White House approach to their cases.

The lack of urgency is especially troubling to the family of José Pereira, the former president of Houston-based CITGO, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Over the weekend, Pereira was rushed from jail to a private clinic in Caracas for emergency treatment for a cardiac condition that his family said hasn't received medical treatment since his detention four years ago.

John Pereira said that although the Biden administration isn't to blame for his father's arrest he expected more from the new U.S. president.

"Our feeling is that they can do more," said Pereira, who along with the families of eight other American detainees in Caracas sent their own letter to Biden a week ago urging U.S. officials to sit down and talk directly with Maduro's government.

"This goes beyond politics. It's a humanitarian issue. They have to sit down to talk," Pereira said.

Hostages' Families Question Biden's Commitment
Relatives of more than two dozen American hostages and wrongful detainees held overseas told President Joe Biden in a letter on Monday that they questioned his administration's commitment to bringing their loved ones' home. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 14. Drew Angerer/Pool via AP