[House Hearing, 113 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
SEAN AND DAVID GOLDMAN INTERNATIONAL
CHILD ABDUCTION PREVENTION AND RETURN
ACT OF 2013
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 10, 2013
Serial No. 113-87
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio BRAD SHERMAN, California
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
TED POE, Texas GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MATT SALMON, Arizona THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina KAREN BASS, California
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
MO BROOKS, Alabama DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
TOM COTTON, Arkansas ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
PAUL COOK, California JUAN VARGAS, California
GEORGE HOLDING, North Carolina BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III,
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania Massachusetts
STEVE STOCKMAN, Texas AMI BERA, California
RON DeSANTIS, Florida ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
TREY RADEL, Florida GRACE MENG, New York
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
TED S. YOHO, Florida JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
LUKE MESSER, Indiana
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
H.R. 3212, To ensure compliance with the 1980 Hague Convention on
the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by countries
with which the United States enjoys reciprocal obligations, to
establish procedures for the prompt return of children abducted
to other countries, and for other purposes..................... 2
Amendment to H.R. 3212 offered by the Honorable Alan Grayson, a
Representative in Congress from the State of Florida......... 52
Markup notice.................................................... 56
Markup minutes................................................... 57
Markup summary................................................... 59
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Florida: Prepared statement.................. 60
SEAN AND DAVID GOLDMAN INTERNATIONAL
CHILD ABDUCTION PREVENTION AND
RETURN ACT OF 2013
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:35 a.m., in
room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Edward Royce
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Royce. Pursuant to notice, we meet today to mark
up the bipartisan bill HR 3212.
The clerk will report the bill.
Ms. Marter. H.R. 3212, a bill to ensure compliance with the
1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction by countries with which the United States
enjoys reciprocal obligations, to establish procedures for the
prompt return of children abducted to other countries, and for
[H.R. 3212 follows:]
Chairman Royce. Without objection, the bill is considered
read and open for amendment at any point. And after recognizing
myself and the ranking member for brief remarks, I will
recognize the author, Mr. Smith, to explain the bill, and then
any other members who seek recognition. Without objection, all
members have 5 legislative days to submit statements for the
record on any of today's business. And I now recognize myself
to speak on the bill.
Every year, more than 1,000 American families are
confronted with the nightmare of their child being abducted to
a foreign country by one parent in violation of legal custody
and access rights, so they are out of reach of the United
States. They are out of reach of our courts and law
enforcement. And this unilateral and illegal severing of the
tie between the child and the left-behind American mother or
American father is a tragedy. It is one that needs to be
addressed. Many of us have constituents facing these wrenching
More than 30 years ago, The Hague Convention on the civil
aspects of child abduction was created to provide a simplified
consensus mechanism for returning children to their countries
of habitual residence so that parental rights are determined by
applicable laws rather than by acts of kidnapping.
Today, the United States has agreements with 75 Hague
partner countries which have helped to return many children
safely home. But unfortunately, agreeing to the Hague
Convention and complying with the Hague Convention are not the
same thing and countries often do not take their obligations to
their commitment there with The Hague seriously enough.
I am going to let Mr. Smith describe the contents of his
bill, but I want to thank him for the groundbreaking work he
has done over the past 4 years in highlighting the unaddressed
problems of Hague noncompliance and working to craft a
responsible legislative approach. This bill will strengthen the
incentives and the tools that the Department of State has to
address unresolved abduction cases. Its enhanced annual
reporting will also provide American parents and our judges
with a clearer picture of actual Hague compliance and the risks
of non-return associated with travel to certain countries.
I want to thank Mr. Smith, thank the bipartisan committee
co-sponsors--Mr. Meadows worked on this, Mr. Kennedy, Mr.
Holding, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Vargas--for working so cooperatively
with the ranking member and with me in the process.
I now recognize the ranking member, Mr. Eliot Engel from
New York, for his opening remarks.
Mr. Engel. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I agree with
everything you just said about the bill. And I would like to
thank you for scheduling today's markup on H.R. 3212, the Sean
and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and
There are few crimes more heart wrenching than child
abduction. And as a parent, I cannot even imagine the anguish
that 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 the
child abroad. According to the State Department, there were
1,144 children abducted from a parent in the United States and
taken abroad in the year 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, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, there are
significant gaps in the Hague Treaty framework. Forty percent
of abducted children are taken to non-Hague countries, leaving
those parents with even fewer options and the Treaty has no
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, my legislation will help us monitor progress
in achieving greater compliance worldwide with The Hague
standards by requiring reports on child abduction cases and our
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 in returning abducted children back to the
United States very 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 would like to thank Mr. Smith for his tireless efforts on
this important issue. I have spoken with him about this for
many, many years and know the hard work that he has put into it
and his heartfelt feelings about this. I want to thank other
members who contributed as well. I want to single out Mr.
Grayson for his positive contribution to the bill.
So Mr. Chairman, I support the measure and the amendment
before us and encourage all members to vote in support of its
passage. I yield back.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Engel. We now go to the
author of the bill of H.R. 3212, Subcommittee Chairman Chris
Mr. Smith of New Jersey. Thank you very much and I want to
thank you profoundly for bringing this legislation. At a time
when the government is shut down, we are alive and well and
running in the typically bipartisan way that you run this
committee and you and Ranking Member Engel are to be commended.
And I thank you especially for bringing this bill to the full
committee for consideration.
I also want to thank all the members who have cosponsored
and I especially want to thank a number of the family members
who are here today and I will say a brief word about that in a
We are here this morning to mark up H.R. 3212, the Sean and
David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and
Return Act of 2013. This legislation mirrors legislation that I
wrote back in 2000 called the Trafficking Victims Protection
Act which was designed to combat the hideous practice of human
trafficking and to do so by holding countries to account. It
also mirrors legislation authored by Congressman Frank Wolf,
the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, that in like
manner holds countries to account for egregious behavior as it
relates to human rights. And of course, here we are talking
about child abduction.
As our members are aware, this bill enjoys strong
bipartisan support. Almost every Member of the House and many
of us do have constituents that have come forward and asked for
our help, are affected by the tragedy of international parental
Child abduction occurs when one parent takes a child from
his or her home in the United States to another country or
wrongfully retains a child abroad in violation of the other
parent's custody rights, often with the intent of depriving the
other parent of access to the child. The damage to the child in
the left-behind parents is incalculable and too often lifelong.
The children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological
problems and many experience anxiety, eating problems,
nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive
behavior, resentment, guilt, and fearfulness.
Parental child abduction is child abuse. These victims are
American citizens who need the help of their Government in a
more robust way, especially when normal legal processes are
unavailable or fail. It was David Goldman's unrelenting almost
6-year effort to bring his son, Sean, home from Brazil that has
helped to highlight the epidemic of international parental
child abduction. David, like other equally heroic parents, was
absolutely tenacious. He is here in this room and I thank him
for the leadership that he has provided that has been
extraordinary. But he was absolutely tenacious, but suffered
setbacks and a numbing pain along the way. Right up until the
very week before Sean was released all of us were wondering,
will it happen or will it not?
Well, according to the U.S. Department of State between the
years 2000 and 2008 and 2012, bereaved left-behind parents like
David reported over 4,800 abduction cases involving more than
7,000 American children. I had the privilege of joining David
in his fight to return Sean and experience firsthand the
maddening obstacles encountered by left-behind parents, even in
countries that have signed the Hague Convention and the civil
aspects of international child abduction. Foreign courts and
endless appeals to run out the clock, exploitation of the
safeguards in the Convention, and prejudice against foreigners
all block the way to bringing American children home. Too many
families have been waiting too long for the return of their
I see in the audience Captain Paul Toland who has not been
able to see his daughter Erica since 2004, despite the fact
that he is her only living parent. So many other left-behind
parents are here today, many of whom like Captain Toland long
to be reunited with their children.
In the room, too, and I didn't know he would be here, is a
man, Mr. Feimster, the grandfather. His daughter's children
were kidnapped. And this is a case, frankly, where the State
Department and the Foreign Service officers involved did an
extraordinary case and effectuated the return of his two
granddaughters who were kidnapped to Tunisia. So
congratulations. At times the system does work, but it is still
broken in many ways.
I also see in the audience, Mr. Hermer, whose daughter is
being held in the United Kingdom. Mr. Braden, I believe will be
here, Mr. Elias, Mr. Burns, and as I said, Mr. Feimster.
Michael Elias, just one brief example, a combat injured,
Iraqi Veteran, testified at one of my four hearings on
abduction and I quote him in pertinent part: ``As a father who
no longer has his children to hold in his arms, I cannot deal
with the sorrows, so I try my best to stay strong and keep
fighting for their return. All of my hopes and dreams for their
future now lie in the hands of others.'' He continued: ``I am
begging our Government to help not only my family, but hundreds
of other heart-broken families as well to demand the return of
Today is our chance to help. H.R. 3212 backs with penalties
our demands for adherence to international obligations and
makes clear to friends and foes alike that our children are our
top priority. As stated in the legislation, it has several
purposes. First, we want to protect children whose habitual
residence in the U.S. from the harmful effects of abduction and
to assist left-behind parents to have access to their abducted
children in a safe and predictable manner while in abduction
and case is pending.
We want to provide left-behind parents their advocates and
judges the information they need to enhance the resolution of
abduction cases to establish legal procedures. In addition, the
purpose of the bill would be to establish measured, effective,
and predictable actions to be undertaken by the President on
behalf of abducted American children and to promote an
international consensus that is in the interest of the children
to have any issues related to their care and custody determined
in the country of their habitual residence.
And finally, the bill would encourage the effective
limitation of international mechanisms, particularly those
established pursuant to The Hague Convention to achieve
reciprocity in the resolution of abductions and to protect
children from harmful effects of abduction. The Goldman Act
gives the President important tools and I have listed them in
my comments and I would ask members to take a look at those.
But they are derived from previous laws including IRFA and the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act so that there will be real
clout behind our insistence that these children be brought
So without objection, I would ask that my full comments be
made part of the record and again I thank my colleagues.
Chairman Royce. I thank you, Mr. Smith. I think the full
statement being in the record is a good concept because we face
a pending conference here. I would remind the other members if
you have a statement to make you can certainly put it in the
record and I would ask if any other members wish to speak at
this time on the underlying bill before we recognize Mr.
Grayson, to offer an amendment.
Yes, Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank
Ranking Member Engel and particularly Mr. Smith for your years
of leadership on this and clearly the passion and leadership
that you have shown to make this day become a reality.
I speak today in support of this bill and in particular on
behalf of one of my constituents, Colin Bower, a devoted father
from Newton, Massachusetts, who has tireless sought the return
of his two abducted children from Egypt. Mr. Bower has worked
to bring his children, Noor and Ramsay, home to the United
States since their mother unexpectedly took them out of school
in 2009, boarded a plane just hours later with tickets paid in
cash, never to return. Despite a U.S. court ruling that gave
full custody to Colin and a subsequent Egyptian court order
granting him the right to visit his children, Colin has
continually been denied the opportunity to see his boys and has
not spoken to them in nearly 2 years.
I offer my comments because Colin is not alone. The
legislation before us would bolster international mechanisms
critical to resolving international abduction cases. It will
provide left-behind parents with a framework about how to work
through the government to gain information about their cases
and elevate this issue publicly to draw the necessary attention
to the children and families that are torn apart.
I thank Congressman Smith for all of your work, once again,
and for offering this bill, and I ask my colleagues to support
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Royce. I thank the gentleman, and we go to Ms.
Ros-Lehtinen for her statement.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. I would
like to thank our hero, Chris Smith, for bringing this
important legislation for markup today and I will continue to
battle with him on behalf of children who have been victims of
transnational abduction and for the left-behind parents who
feel helpless, and all too often hopeless, that their
government won't use whatever tools are available to reunite
them with their children. But I would also like to urge that we
do not overlook one of the most difficult issues in child
abduction law. In many instances, a parent will flee with their
child or children internationally in order to escape domestic
violence. There is no simple solution for this issue and it is
indeed very complex and sensitive. Too often, current U.S. law
addressing international child abduction actually facilitates
domestic violence and child abuse by forcing the return of a
child despite the recognized risks to the child or parent. That
is why I am planning to introduce legislation in the next few
weeks to amend the Federal law that would eliminate these
unintended consequences. And I encourage my colleagues to join
me in this effort as well as helping Mr. Smith pass this
important bill. It is my hope that with these bills and further
corrective measures to international child abduction laws, we
will be able to resolve these issues so that the interest of
the children and the left-behind parents and those who fear
domestic violence and abuse can be protected. And I will put my
statement for the record, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Smith.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Any other
members? Mr. Poe for 10 seconds.
Mr. Poe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I agree with this
legislation. For a long time, one of my constituents, Marty
Pate, we have been working with him. His daughter was stolen by
his ex-wife and taken to Brazil when she was 6 years old
without legal permission. I would like to introduce my entire
statement into the record.
Chairman Royce. Without objection.
Mr. Chabot. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Royce. Mr. Chabot.
Mr. Chabot. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very brief.
I had a constituent, Tom Sylvester, whose daughter Carina was
taken to Austria. This gentleman did everything right, fought
it for years and years, went all the way up to the Supreme
Court of Austria and with decisions in his favor. We met with
Colin Powell and with Madeleine Albright down at the State
Department. He did everything right. Spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars on legal fees, never got his daughter
back. Your heart just goes out to these people that have to go
through this horrific trauma and I want to thank Mr. Goldman
for fighting and thank Congressman Chairman Smith for taking
this on as well. These are just heart-breaking cases. It got so
frustrating, I literally would have said let us send the
Marines in to bring these kids back and so thank you for
introducing this legislation. I hope it does some good. Thank
Chairman Royce. Thank you. Mr. Grayson, do you have an
amendment at the desk?
Mr. Grayson. I do, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Royce. The clerk will report the amendment.
Ms. Marter. Amendment to H.R. 3212 offered by Mr. Grayson
of Florida. In Section 101(b)(2)(g) insert----
[The information referred to follows:]
Chairman Royce. Without objection, the amendment is
considered read and Mr. Grayson is recognized to explain his
Mr. Grayson. Mr. Chairman, I understand that time is short
and many of you have an engagement in 3 minutes, so I will
submit my statement for the record.
Chairman Royce. Mr. Grayson, if I could just commend you
for working with the author and working with the committee and
the ranking member on your amendment. I think it improves the
Are there any further requests for recognition?
Mr. Connolly. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Royce. Yes, Mr. Connolly.
Mr. Connolly. I know we are in a rush. I have no idea what
the Grayson amendment is we are being asked to----
Chairman Royce. I am going to ask Mr. Grayson to explain
his amendment at this time. It is in your packet.
Mr. Grayson, please explain the amendment.
Mr. Grayson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My amendment
accomplishes three things. First, it strengthens the reporting
requirements in the Annual Report on International Child
Abduction. Second, it provides for congressional notification
for each existing, unresolved, international child abduction
case in each member's district, not merely the newly reported
abductions as currently required by the un-amended bill. And
third, it provides the President with discretion to withhold
economic support assistance to foreign governments unwilling to
assist in resolving child abduction case.
Mr. Connolly. I thank the chair and I thank my colleague.
Chairman Royce. Any further comments or questions on the
Grayson amendment or requests to speak? Hearing no further
requests for recognition, the question now occurs on the
amendment offered by Mr. Grayson.
All those in favor say aye.
[Chorus of Ayes.]
All those opposed, no. In the opinion of the Chair, the
ayes have it and the amendment is agreed to.
Are there any other amendments? Hearing no further
amendments to this measure, the question now occurs on agreeing
to H.R. 3212, as amended. All those in favor, say aye.
[Chorus of Ayes.]
All those opposed, no. In the opinion of the Chair, the
ayes have it and the bill, as amended, is agreed to. And
without objection, this measure as amended, is agreed to. It is
ordered favorably reported and will be reported as a single
amendment in the nature of a substitute. And also, without
objection, staff is directed to make technical and conforming
changes and the Chairman is authorized to seek House
consideration of 3212 under suspension of the rules.
And again, I want to thank Ranking Member Engel, Mr. Smith,
and all of our committee members for their contribution to this
legislation and their assistance with today's markup. The
committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 9:57 a.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the RecordNotice deg.