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Bill named after Indian American Bindu Philips fighting for custody of children abducted to India

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Her twin boys, aged 8, were taken to India by their father in 2008.

Bindu Philips with her twins sons. (Courtesy of Bindu Philips)
Bindu Philips with her twins sons. (Courtesy of Bindu Philips)

Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, has introduced a new bill in Congress named after an Indian American mother who is fighting to regain the custody of her twins that were abducted to India her by ex-husband.

The new bill titledBindu Philips and Devon Davenport International Child Abduction Return Act of 2017” automatically removes tariff benefits for countries that are found to be out of compliance in returning abducted children back to the United States.

Bindu Philips is the mother of twins, Albert Philip Jacob and Alfred William Jacob, who according to an FBI report, says were abducted to India, in December 2008, by her then-husband Sunil Jacob in the pretext of a Christmas vacation.

The twins were 8 years old when they were taken to India.

“Bindu Philips fought valiantly in India for over eight years for the return of her abducted twin sons, only to be given the incessant delays in India’s courts and little support from the Obama Administration,” said Smith, Chair of the House panel on global human rights.

“Just recently, she was finally granted a short visit with her children in India, but the children’s father marred the time with harassment and monitoring, refusing to let the children and mother leave a hotel for 7 days,” he added.

In an email statement sent to The American Bazaar, Philips said her children, who are US citizens, are living in India on an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) document that Sunil Jacob obtained fraudulently by forging her signature.

She said the OCI application form was submitted at the Indian Consulate in New York.

For minor children, OCI application needs to be signed by both parents.

In her email statement, Philips thanked Rep. Smith for trying to reunite her with the children.

She said the New Jersey Republican had helped her meet with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on June 8, 2016, during the Indian leader’s visit to Washington. She handed over a representation to the Indian prime minister during the meeting.

In December 2009, a New Jersey court had granted Philips the sole custody of the twins. That hearing was attended by Sunil Jacob via phone from India. The judgment of the US court was handed over to Jacob through India’s Ministry of Law and Justice.

“The Superior Court of New Jersey ordered the immediate return of my twin children to US in October 2010,” Philips said in her mail.

In a 2015 interview with the American Bazaar, she said that Jacob had tried to turn the children against her and had limited the contact she has had with them. “After he admitted them to a school in Kerala without my knowledge, the principal of that school later gave me permission to talk to my children twice a week at school,” she said in that interview. “As soon as he heard about that he moved them to another school where he gave strict instructions telling them not to allow their mother or maternal relatives to contact the children.”

She added that Jacob had taken her finances, her salary from their joint earnings and all her belongings. “[My] house was empty when I returned to the US,” she said. “He had everything taken while I was gone. My parents had to send me finances for my living expenses and my neighbor was kind enough to allow me to stay in her house since mine was completely empty — everything had been shipped away without my knowledge by three of his friends.”

According to Smith, 11 of the 13 countries found to be non-compliant in the annual Goldman Report by the US State Department in the return of abducted American children are still receiving billions of dollars in tariff exemptions under the Generalized System of Preferences. He urged the congress to cease rewarding countries that protect abductors.

“For years, the U.S. government response to abductions has been an engraved invitation to abductors,” said Smith. “Abductors have an 84% chance of no penalty for ripping their child from home and family in the United States. It is my hope and expectation that this year, the State Department will begin to act more decisively on behalf of American families so that more children come home.”

Last year, 629 American children were taken from the United States by one parent without the consent of the other, often in direct violation of valid United States court orders, United States criminal law and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In the absence of pressure from Washington, the rate of return of children is only 16%.

Smith said in a statement that abducted American children living in a foreign country are blocked from any contact with the American parent, losing half of their family and heritage, and also they are reportedly suffering from anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, aggressive behavior, resentment and fear.

Devon Davenport, another name mentioned in the bill is the father of Nadia, who was just four months old when her mother took her to Brazil. Even though he has won every single one of the 24 appeal, he is yet to receive the custody of the daughter.

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