Committee Hearing Opening Statements
Smith, Moran Offer Bipartisan Resolution on Abducted U.S. Children in Japan
Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Jim Moran (VA-08) today unveiled a bipartisan resolution focused on Japan that calls on the Asian nation to address the increasing problem of international parental child abduction and the sorrow and frustration suffered by the parents left behind.Heartbreaking cases of American parents whose children have been abducted to Japan by ex-spouses in violation of a U.S. kidnapping law and their parental rights have prompted Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Jim Moran (VA-08) to unveil a bipartisan resolution focused on Japan that calls on the Asian nation to address the increasing problem of international parental child abduction and the sorrow and frustration suffered by the parents left behind.
The resolution, H. Res. 1326, condemns the abduction and retention of 121 U.S. children in Japan, and calls on the Japanese government to “immediately facilitate the resolution of all the abduction cases.” Among other recommendations, it also calls on Japan to assist the U.S. government in identifying and locating all U.S. children, as well as developing a system for parental access and communication.
Citing the December reunion between left behind parent David Goldman and his American-born son Sean, now 9, after a five-year effort to bring Sean home from Brazil, Smith said U.S. legislative and administrative action is needed to bring U.S. children home.
“Today, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and left behind parents reiterate, recommit, and restate our absolute resolve to take care of unfinished business—the reunification of an estimated 2,800 American children who have been severely victimized by an abducting parent,” said Smith, a senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Congressional Representative to the United Nations. “This problem is becoming a worldwide epidemic and the U.S. government must have stronger tools—tools of high level advocacy and sanction authority in order to encourage countries to make resolving abduction cases a priority. Japan currently has no mechanism for resolving international child abductions. (Click here to read Congressman Smith’s statement.)
“The resolution we are introducing today, H. Res. 1326, is a serious call to the government of Japan to end its complicity and/or indifference to child abduction. American patience has officially run out,” Smith said. “Japan’s continued disregard for the rights of American children within their borders is driving a revolution in American diplomacy—changes that will involve sanctions for countries that continue to be non-cooperative and to enable abductors.
Smith is a leader on human rights issues in Congress and is Ranking Member on two congressional human rights panels, the Helsinki Commission and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
One of the parents present today, Christopher Savoie of Tennessee, was arrested in September 2009 in Japan after he attempted to reclaim his two children who were taken to Japan by his ex-wife in violation of a U.S. court order. Savoie was taken into custody and faced criminal charges until international pressure to release him resulted in his freedom.
Another parent, former Marine Sgt. Michael Elias of Rutherford, N.J., also attended the press conference. He hasn’t seen his daughter Jade, 4, and son, Michael, 2, since their mother illegally took them out of the U.S. to Japan in 2008.
Historically, parents left behind when their children are abducted to Japan have little hope and little recourse for justice because the Japanese government ignores U.S. family court rulings and will not honor the rights of American parents. Even in extreme cases such as when the abducting parent passes away, the Japanese government has not returned the child to the left behind parent. In fact, there is no known case of Japan ever returning an abducted Japanese-American child to the left behind parent.
Smith has been working to push Congress and the Administration to better address international child abductions in Japan and elsewhere. In July 2009, he introduced the “The International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009”, H.R. 3240, for left behind parents whose children have been abducted to Japan, Brazil and other countries (bill summary).
“We are happy to have over 40 bipartisan cosponsors on H.R. 3240 which empowers the United States to more aggressively pursue the resolution of abduction cases,” Smith said. “Our current system is not providing justice for left behind parents or for children whisked away from their mom or dad. Congress must act so that more children are not further traumatized by parental abduction.”
H.R. 3240 requires the President to respond with a range of mutually reinforcing penalties, including sanctions against a country that has shown a pattern of non-cooperation in resolving child abduction cases. It creates the position of Ambassador at Large for International Child Abduction within the State Department to pursue additional legal frameworks abroad, including bilateral agreements with countries like Japan that have not yet acceded to the Hague Convention, and provides for a new office within the State Department to better assist left behind parents and expand the State Department’s ability to collect detailed information on abductions.