Smith Int’l Child Abduction Bill Advances in Senate
Smith thanks Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Corker for Marking-Up Bill which prods State Department and provides tools to bring American children home
The Goldman Act (HR 3212), legislation to help thousands of “left-behind” parents from across the country, was marked-up and approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of legislation that passed the House 398-0 in December 2013. The bill would give the State Department a variety of tools to put pressure on foreign governments to send home American children abducted to overseas destinations.
“Following the bipartisan, unanimous House passage of HR 3212, The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, I have been eager for Senate action and am grateful to both Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker for considering this legislation,” Smith said. “In the four-year push to turn my bill into law, we have seen a sea change in the Congress’ and State Department’s understanding of international parental child abduction—an understanding that these abductions are a form of child abuse and a human rights violation. Winning unanimous passage in the House and garnering the State Department’s support of this legislation has been critical.”
Smith sadly noted that many children and parents have tragically lost years illegally separated. They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time—that they can never get back, he said. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fights to recover their children.
“Every day of separation brings immense suffering to abducted children and their left behind parents,” Smith said. “The Goldman Act will mitigate enormous pain and suffering and accelerate the return of abducted children.”
H.R. 3212 is named after David Goldman, of Monmouth County, N.J., who waged a five-year battle to get his son, Sean, back from Brazil in 2009. Ever since he has stayed in the fight on behalf of other less fortunate left behind parents, most of whom haven’t seen their own children in years, testifying repeatedly before congressional committees appealing for help for left behind parents.
Smith has held multiple hearings on the heartbreaking cases of left-behind parents of American children abducted to India, Japan, Egypt, India, Brazil, Russia, England and other countries from which far too few of the thousands of U.S. kids held wrongfully overseas are returned. Not all countries have signed The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the main international treaty to address parental abductions. The Hague provides a civil framework for the quick return of abducted children to their home country, and facilitation of visitation and contact between parents and children during the pendency of the case and after the resolution. Unfortunately, many Hague signatories, like Brazil, fail to consistently enforce the Hague Convention provisions.
More than one thousand international child abductions are reported to the State Department’s Office on Children’s Issues—the Central Authority of the United States—each year. Between 2008 and 2012, 7,000 American children were abducted, according to the State Department.
Among its many provisions, the legislation enumerates eight steps the Administration can take, increasing in severity, when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children. The bill also urges the Administration to enter into Memorandums of Understanding with non-Hague Convention countries to locate and effectuate the return of abducted children and protect the access of the child to the left behind parent. In order to ensure more robust accountability of the Administration and to warn judges who may allow a child to visit a country where return is difficult, the bill significantly enhances reporting on country by country performance.