Nearly four years after his ex-wife spirited their daughter away to Japan and blocked nearly all his attempts to see her, a Wisconsin doctor welcomed his little girl home on Friday — just in time for Christmas.
“My heart is pounding, I am very nervous, but ready,” Moises Garcia wrote on his Facebook page as he waited for Karina to clear customs and a psychological evaluation at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. “It is all emotional! I can see the picture passing in my mind of all these 4 years. I get almost tears. I just don’t know how to react when I see her first. I will do my best.”
Garcia fought passionately to get his daughter back after her mother, Emiko Inoue, took five-year-old Karina to Japan in February 2008.
He documented the three visitations he was granted by a Japanese court and a surprise visit he made to Karina’s school on parents’ day on a Web site set up to show his now nine-year-old daughter how hard he fought for her and how much he missed her.
It seemed like yet another hopeless case until Inoue flew to Hawaii in April to renew her US residency.
Customs agents spotted a flag on her file and she was arrested on child abduction charges.
Inoue spent months in a Wisconsin jail until she reached a plea deal with prosecutors: Her parents would send Karina home to Garcia and Inoue would be given probation instead of a lengthy prison sentence.
“She loved her little surprise ... Her little sister MAYA,” Garcia wrote after Karina fell asleep on Friday. “Karina is a great child.”
It is the first time that a US child allegedly abducted by a Japanese parent was returned to the US with the aid of the court system.
Japan is the only member of the G8 industrialized powers that is not part of a 1980 convention that requires countries to return wrongfully held children to their countries of usual residence.
Mindful of international criticism, Japan has agreed in principle to sign the Hague treaty, but the move would only apply to future cases and not to the more than 120 ongoing cases in which US parents are seeking children in Japan. Japanese courts virtually never award custody to foreign parents.
“To date, the Office of Children’s Issues does not have a record of any cases resolved through a favorable Japanese court order or through the assistance of the Japanese government,” the US Department of State said on its Web site.
Congressman Christopher Smith, who has been active for years on child abduction cases, welcomed the news of Karina’s return, but said the case was an anomaly as her mother had returned to the US.
“Our hope is that this is an additional wake-up call for the Japanese government that they need to move expeditiously to resolve these cases,” Smith said.
“Other parents are still spending another Christmas living in agony as their children remain unlawfully detained by abducting parents,” said Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.
Smith, the author of landmark legislation a decade ago against human trafficking, said he planned to move ahead next year on a bill that he hoped would give the US government greater tools to resolve abduction cases.
Under the legislation, the US would be required to assess every country’s efforts on child abductions and potentially impose sanctions for poor records.