By MaryAnn Spoto | The Star-Ledger:
Federal lawmakers gave more ammunition to American parents whose children are illegally retained by family members in other countries when the U.S. House of Representatives today passed a resolution inspired by a Tinton Falls father whose son was held in Brazil by his wife and her parents for more than five years.
The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, approved by the full House of Representatives, authorizes the U.S. State Department to take increasingly forceful measures against any country that does not help return an American child not illegally held there.
In 2004, David Goldmans wife left with their 4-year-old son Sean ostensibly to visit her parents in Brazil. Instead of returning home, she divorced him and eventually remarried. After she died from complications from childbirth, her parents refused to return the boy to his father, touching off a bitter 5ﾽ-year international legal and political fight that went all the way to the State Department. A court in Brazil finally ordered Sean returned to his father.
Goldman, with strong backing from U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.), turned his case into a very public appeal to tighten weaknesses of international child abduction treaties.
In the five-year push to turn this bill into law, we have seen a sea change in the Congress and State Departments understanding of international parental child abductionan understanding that these abductions are a form of child abuse and a human rights violation, Smith said in a statement. There are many heartbroken parents waiting for this bill to help them in their fight to see their children again.
The House originally passed the measure, HR3212, in December but addressed it again today after the Senate approved it with some modifications on July 16. It now goes to President Obama for his consideration.
It was a long road, nearly five years, thanks to a tremendous effort of Congressman Smith and his staff, Goldman said in a statement. It was a great thing to do. It was the right thing to do. Its another step closer to reuniting families.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., cosponsor, said hes working with another father, Mike Elias of Rutherford, whose wife took their two children to Japan four years ago. Elias, an Iraqi war veteran Marine sergeant, is also involved in a bitter custody dispute.
Todays passage of this critical legislation will bring us one step closer to reuniting families that were wrongfully torn apart while preventing abductions from happening in the first place, Pascrell said.
Among its provisions, HR312 requires the State Department to produce a comprehensive annual report on international parental child abductions. That report must include information on whether the government of a country in question has a history of non-compliance with child abduction cases.
It also requires U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to monitor abduction and access cases and to work out agreements with countries that are unlikely to join the Hague Abduction Convention, which sets rules for handling international child abduction cases.
The measure also authorizes $1 million for each of the next two years for judicial training for those countries that have a pattern of non-compliance or that have a significant number of unresolved abduction cases.
Passing this legislation will focus attention on this heart-breaking issue, assist parents in bringing abducted children home where they legally and rightfully belong and bolster prevention so that children are less likely to be abducted in the first place, said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a co-author of the resolution.
By MaryAnn Spoto | The Star-Ledger on July 25, 2014 at 6:30 PM, updated July 27, 2014 at 6:32 PM