WASHINGTON : Congress gave its final approval Friday to legislation that compels US authorities to assist American mothers and fathers whose children are victims of international parental abductions.
More than 1,000 international child abductions each year are reported to the State Department, with children often taken illegally from the United States by a foreign parent to countries like Brazil, England, India, Japan and Russia. Most of them are not returned.
By simple voice vote, the House of Representatives approved the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, named after son Sean who, through an intense US diplomatic intervention, was returned to his New Jersey home years after being taken to Brazil by his mother.
The bill passed the House last December, but the Senate tweaked it and approved its version last week. The House on Friday passed the final legislation and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The international Hague Convention on child abductions provides a civil framework for speeding the return of children, but the rules are not consistently enforced.
The Goldman act, first drafted in 2009, “ensures that (American parents) will now receive significant help from the US government in their fights to recover their children,” said House Republican Chris Smith, who wrote the original legislation.
“With this bill, for the first time ever, parents with children held in non-Hague countries can work with the State Department. They won’t be on their own, far from the United States, desperately trying to get their children back.”
The law, once signed, would call for increasingly severe steps taken by US authorities if a foreign government does not cooperate in helping resolve abduction cases, beginning with diplomatic demarches and escalating to cancellations of official visits, suspension of economic aid, and formal requests for extradition of individuals engaged in abductions.
It would also urge the administration to forge bilateral agreements with Hague Convention and non-Hague Convention countries to help locate and return abducted children and protect access rights for the “left-behind” parent. “These abductions are a form of child abuse and a human rights violation,” Smith said.