Jeffery Morehouse dropped his 6-year-old son off with his mother for a weeklong visit in 2010 — and she managed to abscond with him to Japan.
On Monday, Mr. Morehouse, executive director of Bring Abducted Children Home, called on Congress to step up American efforts to bring his son and other children back from overseas, saying the government’s actions are inconsistent and insufficient.
“President Trump ran on putting America first,” Mr. Morehouse said in his testimony to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global human rights. “Well, America first means putting American children first and bringing them home.”
He and other parents detailed their struggles to try to force other countries to comply with American parental custody agreements.
Michelle Littleton told the subcommittee that a judge stripped her of custody until she consented to let her ex-husband take their three children on a trip to Lebanon during Christmas break in 2016.
They have yet to come back, and Ms. Littleton said she’s afraid her two daughters would be married off before they are allowed to return.
Juan Garaicoa’s sons were supposed to return home to Miami for school after taking a summer break trip with their mother to the Dominican Republic.
When he didn’t hear from his children one day, their mother sent him a one-sentence email: They were in Ecuador.
Once the children are in another country, the U.S.-based parent must go through the Hague hearings based in the country where the child was taken. That requires them to navigate a foreign court, a process that can take years and leaves custody decisions in the hands of the foreign country’s legal system.
Mr. Morehouse said he was given “grossly flawed” advice by Japan’s Central Authority in filing documents for access that drew out the process for years. He said his wife has been unresponsive and the Japanese courts are not forcing her to comply.
Ms. Littleton said her lawyer has made headway in Lebanon and she may have her children returned, but she said the delays have been rough — and she’s not yet succeeded.
“I am grateful for the Lebanese government’s willingness to acknowledge our nation’s orders, but nothing has been done to actually return abducted children,” she said.
Above all, parents and lawmakers called on the State Department to strengthen the diplomatic repercussions used to challenge noncompliant countries.
They found a sympathetic ear in Rep. Chris Smith, the chairman of the subcommittee, who said the administration has the tools it needs, but must actually use them to pressure other countries to cooperate.
He plans on delivering a letter directly to the president on Tuesday at a signing ceremony on a bill he sponsored dealing with genocide in Iraq and Syria.
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