New Jersey politician condemns government inaction on child abduction

Child with suitcaseThe Obama administration must do more to tackle unresolved parental child abduction cases, a US politician has claimed.

Chris Smith, the Republican Representative for New Jersey, told a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that:

“The status quo is simply not adequate.”

The hearing was focused on cases of abduction by parents into countries which have not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty which allows the swift return of children illegally taken from one participating country into another.

The congressman singled out India as “a source of immense frustration and grief for American parents”.

“Although Indian courts make Hague-like decisions to return some children, returns are at best uneven. Parents attempting to utilise India’s courts for the return of abducted children report corruption and incessant delays.”

Bindu Philips, a mother from Plainsboro, appeared before the committee to describe her ordeal when ex-husband Sunil took her children away during a family holiday in the country.

“Every day I awaken to the heart-wrenching reality that I am separated from the children that I love more than anything in the world. I implore you, members of Congress, to help me in my quest to be reunited with my children.”

Japan is another country which has yet  signed the Hague Convention. Michael Elias, a former Marine from Bergen County, described his own story. His Japanese ex-wife Mayumi Nakamura took their children back to her home country and cut off all contact.

Mr Elias told the hearing:

“As long as your government allows Japan to continue to disregard our children, the number of parental kidnappings will continue to rise.”

On the same day Smith reintroduced a bill which would give the government 18 new powers and penalties when attempting to secure the return of American children from overseas.

The Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act was named after a New Jersey man who waged a five year campaign to secure the return of his son from Brazil.

David Goldman also appeared before the committee, the Asbury Park Press reports, declaring:

“Nothing short of being extremely bold and principled is going to do much to change the status quo.”

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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5 comments

Patrick McPike - May 11, 2013 at 8:29pm

Marilyn,

Thank you for covering this absolutely critical issue.

At the hearing Amb. Susan Jacobs, who is supposed to be the top ranking State Department avocate for the international child abduction issue, acknowledged what parents have been saying for decades – that contrary to the rhetoric, the State Department doesn’t view the parental abduction cases as a priority. They view it as primarily a “civil matter”, and not as the crime it is; nor as the child abuse that it is; nor as a human rights issue that it is.

The fact that the State Department keeps getting pulled in front of the ‘Human Rights Subcommittee’ should be a clue that they have the wrong mindset.

However, the State Department has a fundamental conflict of interest. To them, the foreign country is “the customer”, not the US citizens that STATE is supposed to represent.

The mere fact that the State Department is resisting the idea of Congress providing more tools to address this issue, demonstrates that this is not a true priority for them.

Also, Patricia Apy, a legal expert testifying along with the representative parents, did an excellent job of pointing out problems of Government and articulating how for all intents and purposes the State Departments entire strategy boils down to saying, “Pretty Please.”

All the parents’ testimonies were valuable, however, David Goldman’s was an extremely powerful condemnation of Government’s complete failure to deal with the issue of abducted US children.

The hearing can be viewed here in its entirety:
http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-resolving-international-parental-child-abductions-non-hague-convention

Carlos - May 12, 2013 at 6:52pm

“Special Advisor” Jacobs gave outright mis-information on Mexico. State’s own Human Rights Reports call Mexico’s judicial system an ineffective quagmire that the Mexican people have no faith in, but actively promotes the fiction that the same xenophobic and anti-American courts are effective for American LBP’s.

In terms of family law, Mexico is as matriarchal as Saudi Arabia is patriarchal. American fathers are less likely to have their children returned against the wishes of their Mexican abducting mothers than American mothers against the wishes of their Saudi fathers.

There are 1000’s of children taken to Mexico every year, many of them by non-Mexican’s who run for the border. Some of that huge number voluntarily return. Others Mexico deports (Mexico’s immigration laws are, ironically, swift and stringent) back to the US and the State Department pretends that Mexico is returning children under the Hague Convention.

Rick Myers - May 13, 2013 at 6:31am

I am a left behind parent and I haven’t seen my sons for over six years. The State Department’s handling of my case is a major reason for this as they botched a Welfare Check on my son. Also, this is the second time I’ve seen Susan Jacobs speak and I understand why the culture is the way it is in her department. My case worker simply went through the motions, showed no empathy and lost my paperwork 8 months after my first filing. Bottom line, OCI needs a complete overhaul.

Of course Patricia Apy was excellent. I am fortunate to have her as my attorney. Having said that, I have been working with her for three years and I still don’t feel any closer to having access to my sons and my case is with Israel who are our closest ally. Congress needs to get involved.

Thanks to David Goldman, my story is posted on his website on how the Government Failed my Two American Sons:

http://bringseanhome.org/resources/the-left-behind-parent/how-two-governments-failed-me-and-my-american-children/

IVFDad - May 13, 2013 at 10:34am

There is definitely a “huge gap” on how left-behind parents see “human rights” Vs. others. As a binational immigrant to the US who became an IVF father, the lack of laws is alarming. While there are laws for international adoption and international child abduction, there are NO laws for international IVF/surrogacy children. After years of infertility and trauma, we were blessed with an IVF child in India and I am the only known biological parent of the child and took him to the US. I had a second IVF child, a sibling for my first child, also in India who is NOT allowed to come to the US because of prevailing US Immigration laws for “single fathers” who are immigrants. While my first IVF child is NOT allowed to come to India even though he is an Indian citizen. As a result, the two innocent IVF siblings have NEVER met. As a result, I am living in EXILE outside the US raising my second IVF child in India. Of course, if I were heartless and selfish, I could have abandoned my IVF child in India or give her up for adoption. Why is my GENDER and my NATIONALITY being used as a weapon AGAINST my IVF children? Don’t my IVF children have their own child rights and human rights? Or since they are too little and voiceless, it is OK to walk all over their RIGHTS?

We hope and pray that US shows leadership to rest of the world when it comes to international child rights issues.

javan higgins - August 23, 2013 at 7:34am

Its really not a lack of law in New Jersey Its the failure of the Nj Judiciary to enforce the existing laws as intended. Examples abound where proper intervention could have prevented or mitigated the unfortunate outcome of abduction.

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