Senate to tackle international child abduction

Senators will follow House members' lead this week and seek to make it easier for American parents to get their children back when they're taken abroad by other family members.

The Senate Foreign Relations panel is holding a hearing Thursday with diplomats and advocates on the issue of international parental child abduction. Some 1,144 children were abducted from a parent in the United States and taken abroad in 2012 alone, according to the State Department.

“The purpose of the hearing is to examine the tragedy of international parental child abduction, U.S. implementation of the Hague Abduction Convention, and the effectiveness of U.S. government efforts to achieve the return of abducted children and assist their left-behind parents,” a committee staffer told The Hill.

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The House overwhelming passed legislation from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) last year that would enable the administration to pressure countries that fail to help return children abducted from the United States by one of their parents. The Senate has to date not introduced any companion legislation.

The House bill creates sanctions for the White House to use against countries that have signed the U.N.'s Hague Convention on international child abduction but are considered to be in violation. It also calls on the State Department to negotiate Memorandums of Understanding with countries that aren't yet members of the treaty.

“A hearing is a good step. We’re looking forward to continue working with them,” a Smith spokesman told The Hill. “It was 398-0 when it passed the House, so we’re looking for good reception in the Senate.”

The bill is named after a New Jersey boy, Sean Goldman, who was abducted to Brazil for five years by his mother before being returned last year. Goldman's father is scheduled to testify Thursday along with Susan Jacobs, the State Department's special advisor for Children’s Issues, and several advocates.

The issue in particular has strained relations with U.S. ally Japan, where almost 400 American children have allegedly been abducted over the past two decades. Japan signed and ratified the Hague convention last month.

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