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TODAY   |  December 28, 2009

Why was Goldman case so difficult?

Dec. 28: David Goldman’s lawyer, Patricia Apy, and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey talk to TODAY’s Meredith Vieira about the David Goldman case and why international custody battles are so difficult.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> on christmas day. we're joined now by goldman's lawyer and new jersey congressman chris smith who made the trip to brazil . good morning to you both. let me start with you, patricia, you worked so tirelessly to get these two reunited. seeing them together, how does that make you feel?

>> it's remarkable. it's absolutely remarkable. it does, it encourages you, but then it also inspires me to think about the other children that i have on the list. that queue up to the top of the list and we start to move and working on those cases.

>> i'm sure the other parents were probably calling you about saying, what about my happy ending ?

>> every child who has been abducted deserves the same kind of care and concern that sean goldman has been provided. and getting to that point is really the next step.

>> congressman smith, you were with david in brazil . you said good-bye to them both as ythey took off. what was going through your mind when you saw them board the plane?

>> i was absolutely thrilled. especially when they got to the top of the steps and both david and his son, sean, turned around with a a big smile on their faces and waved to karen gustafson who is from the embassy and myself and we were waving like children back to them. we were so happy and filled with joy. it was like mission accomplished in a way that especially on christmas eve , as david said, it was a miracle from god.

>> such a difficult mission to accomplish, in part because both brazil and the united states have signed the hague convention , which is supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. and yet, it seems to have failed so clearly in this case. congressman smith, why is that? why is the convention a failure?

>> well the convention itself is not a failure. it's the implementation on the part of governments. there is no effective mechanism for enforcement, which is why i've introduced the international child abduction act, prevention act of 2009 , to give real tools a real means by which the president and the secretary of state can say to countries that are either complicit with abduction or indifferent, like brazil , like japan, okay, if you do this to american children and left behind american parents, we will impose sanctions. we will limit our foreign aid , except for humanitarian aid . we will hold back on loans. we have a series of 18 specific actions, prescribed in the legislation. to say, we're not playing games. human rights matter. these are american people . dads, moms, and children, whose human rights here in america are being violated in many cases with impunity. and david 's case has not only helped david . but all the left-behind parents and their children have been given fresh hope, fresh impetus to fight on. they broke david 's heart, but they did not break his spirit.

>> congressman, you introduced that legislation back in june. where does it stand at this point?

>> well it has been referred to several committees. the foreign affairs committee is the primary committee of jurisdiction. my hope is, and i would call on the speaker, i would call on my good friend, denny hoyer and others in the democrat and the republican side , to mark up this bill now. there's no reason for delay. we fashioned it after a bill that i wrote back in 2000 , called the trafficking victims protection act. the purpose of which was to combat modern-day slavery. sex trafficking and labor trafficking. the key to the success of that law, back in 2000 , are the sanctions. if you do not hold countries to account, this is country-to-country. it is not a matter, this is abduction. and if the legal system, the executive branch , the law enforcement agencies , drop the ball, we need to hold them accountable for what they're doing to american families. otherwise, it is a david versus goliath story, times 28 all over again, all over the world.

>> very quickly, patricia, what is going on with the family in brazil ? is it over now? can they continue to appeal in any way there to get this boy back? or is it done?

>> the litigation in brazil is completely done. my hope is that the family will reach out to us and we'll immediately work on the circumstances for visitation and make sure that there's no other room for conflict involving the family.

>> and at this point, they are saying in fact that you're not giving any leeway there?

>> every reporter in brazil has my phone number so i know that they know how to get to me.