Sunday, November 1, 2009

Child Abduction Politics

On the front page, above the fold of Saturday’s New York Times, admittedly not the most read edition, was an intriguing article on child abduction. The U.S. State Department and U.S. government, which has long been accused of doing little about international parental child abduction cases, comes out looking good. Yes, not as good as the very determined mother and her immigrant family, but better than usual.

Most interesting, it is a case involving China, a country that has not signed the Hague Convention on international child abduction, and does not enforce custody orders issued by foreign courts. Nor does it consider parental abduction a crime or have much interest in the rights of children. This is a situation similar to Japan, South Korea, Russia, and India.

It is ironic, that Mexican diplomats in China had worked hard to help the mother, an illegal Mexican resident of the United States whose abusive American had had abducted their daughter to China in December 2008. Mexico currently harbors the largest number of abducted children from the U.S.; and Japan is the second (depending on how you count). Mexico, although a signatory to the Hague Convention, is regularly cited as noncompliant.

Significantly, it took an extraordinary international effort, including months of legal and diplomatic advocacy, criminal investigation and Internet sleuthing, to locate the little girl — who was found last Sunday, abandoned in an orphanage many miles from Beijing — and bring her safely home to New York this past Thursday. The FBI, the Immigration authorities, Justice Department, New York State law enforcement, and the State Department all worked together to ensure that the mother received her green card, a sole custody agreement inked, and the errant husband issued an arrest warrant.

All this was, in turn, pushed along by New York’s new Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand who saw an incredible opportunity to show concern for her Hispanic voters and to sign onto the political wave in Congress on the child abduction issue. Congressional pressure on the State Department has made a difference in how Foggy Bottom now views the international parental child abduction problem. It is no longer a private matter or merely a consular issue.

China’s cooperation on helping resolve this child abduction was also unique. They seem to have gotten the message, that Congress and the White House are watching this issue. Signing and abiding by the Hague Convention is fast becoming a marker in a state’s commitment to being an international stakeholder.

It is a message that I am sure that the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs is trying now to convey. If not, he will be.

1 comment:

  1. It is a very interesting article. I am looking forward to Nov. 12th when Obama comes to Japan with Kurt Campbell.


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