Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Full Committee markup of H.R. 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank you for scheduling today’s markup on H.R. 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act.
There are few crimes more heart-wrenching than child abduction. As a parent, I can’t even imagine the anguish someone goes through by having a child abducted by their partner and taken to another country. These left-behind parents have little leverage to have their children returned home. They are often at the mercy of foreign courts with different cultural conceptions of custody and arbitrary determinations for what is or is not in the child’s best interest.
Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of international parental child abductions – where one parent leaves the United States and either wrongfully removes or retains a child abroad. According to the State Department there were 1,144 children abducted from a parent in the United States and taken abroad in 2012 alone.
The most effective tool the United States has to help return abducted children is the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty creates a global standard and requires signatories to return abducted children to the country of the child’s habitual residence for a custody hearing.
Regrettably, there are significant gaps in the Hague treaty framework. 40% of abducted children are taken to non-Hague countries, leaving those parents with fewer options. And the treaty has no enforcement mechanisms.
The purpose of the legislation before us today is to fill those gaps. H.R. 3212 encourages the State Department to enter into MOUs with these countries to help bring them in line with Hague standards and return children home. It also gives the President the power to sanction countries that demonstrate persistent failure in returning abducted children.
In addition, the legislation will help us monitor progress in achieving greater compliance worldwide with the Hague standards by requiring reports on child abduction cases and on U.S. government efforts to encourage that compliance.
Sadly, international parental child abduction is an under-reported and often overlooked crime which dramatically and traumatically impacts the lives of the children and parents involved. We need to send a message to the world that we take Hague compliance and returning abducted children back to the United States seriously. This bill represents an important step forward in empowering the President and the State Department to enforce the Hague Convention and to bring more countries in line with its standards.
I’d like to thank Mr. Smith for his tireless efforts on this important issue and Mr. Grayson for his positive contribution to the bill.
Mr. Chairman, I support the measure and the amendment before us and encourage all members to vote in support of its passage.