David Goldman and other left behind parents from around the country attended a congressional mark-up session on Tuesday, March 27th for H.R. 1940, a bill introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional human rights subcommittee. The proposed legislation, now named the "Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction, Prevention and Return Act," is designed to empower the U.S. State Department with more tools to achieve the return of children abducted from the U.S. and to enforce the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Members of the House panel that oversees human rights approved the bill on Tuesday. The bill was lauded by panel members as a way to help bring thousands of American children, victims of international parental child abduction, home to the U.S.
"Parental child abduction is child abuse. Too many families have been waiting too long for the return of their children. Our current system with its endless delays and lack of proper accountability has failed too many. It is time for an approach that backs our demands with penalties and makes very clear to foes and friends alike that our children are our top priority."
Click here to read Chairman Smith's opening remarks, which spell out 17 important tools the bill provides to help recover U.S. children.
Smith said the bill, approved by unanimous consent, "will put teeth into U.S. government efforts to reclaim abducted American children by giving the President important tools that motivate other countries to more quickly respond to efforts to return an abducted child."
Many left behind parents and family members attended the mark-up, including David Goldman of Monmouth County, N.J., father of Sean Goldman who was abducted to Brazil. Goldman's tenatious five-year battle to see his son again and bring him home ended successfully on Dec. 24, 2009. The legal battles in Brazil and New Jersey were widely publicized, and many blog posts and videos can be seen on this Blog here. Seated next to Goldman and the other left behind parents at the hearing was NBC Dateline journalist Meredith Vieira, who helped bring critical attention to Goldman's case.
Unfortunately many ‘left-behind’ parents have never seen their children again after the abduction.
Left behind parents Chris Savoie, Paul Toland and Douglas Berg all offered their personal painful experiences at Tuesday's proceeding, as did Nancy Elias, a left-behind grandparent of two children abducted from New Jersey.
Smith said: "H.R. 1940 as amended is also for the left behind parents and bereaved children who have been taken to countries that are not party to the Hague Abduction Convention," Smith said, "parents like Michael Elias, a combat-injured Iraqi veteran from New Jersey, whose ex-wife used her Japanese consulate connections to abduct little Jade and Michael Jr., after the New Jersey court had ordered surrender of passports and joint custody.
Smith said H.R. 1940 directs the President to take measured, effective, and predictable actions to aggressively advocate for our children's return. Such actions range from denial of certain assistance to prohibiting the procurement of certain goods or services from the government or instrumentality responsible for the pattern of noncooperation.
"I hope that it will not be necessary to use the penalties provided in this bill," Smith said. "In the best case scenario, just the possibility of adverse consequences will motivate the resolution of current open cases of international child abduction, and prevent additional cases from happening in the first place. If parents have no place to hide, they are less likely to run with the children.