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Tillis reignites fight against international parental child abduction

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) this week told the U.S. State Department that its approach to return American children abducted abroad back to the United States isn’t working and more needs to be done.

“As United States senators, we cannot simply sit by and watch the State Department continue to issue ineffective demarches while countries continue to shelter those who abduct our citizen-children. We are committed to ensuring the return of every American child abducted abroad and we will not stop working on their behalf,” Sen. Tillis wrote in a bipartisan Jan. 2 letter sent to State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also signed the letter.

Each year, several hundred American children are abducted by one parent and taken to a foreign country, according to a statement from Sen. Tillis’ office, which added that such abductions may negatively impact a child’s mental, physical and emotional health and well-being.

Congress in 2014 approved the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which provided the State Department with tools to compel foreign governments to return abducted American children back home, according to the senator’s statement. Such tools include official public censures and withdrawing development assistance.

Nevertheless, since the legislation became law, the State Department has continued to use demarches — or diplomatic communications — as its sole means of attempting to secure a child’s return, according to the senator’s statement.

“Unfortunately, a comprehensive review of past annual reports shows that the State Department rarely, if ever, goes beyond issuing a demarche,” the senators wrote to Pompeo.

And demarches aren’t effective, according to the senators’ letter, which noted that some countries, like Japan, have received several demarches, “but no additional, formal action was taken to address the problem of parental child abduction to Japan,” which continually harbors abducted American children.

In fact, both a 2018 State Department annual report and action report show that the department still isn’t using all of the tools it has at its disposal to rectify the situation, they pointed out.

“This approach is clearly failing,” the lawmakers wrote. “The number of children kidnapped from and then returned to the U.S. has shown no measurable improvement over the years. Simply issuing demarches, raising cases with foreign government officials and empty threats are not bringing children home.”

The senators urged the Department of State to utilize the tools and resources provided by law to bring home abducted American children.

“We hope you recognize the seriousness of the issue and will make it one of your top priorities,” according to their letter.

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