Brazilian Custody Battle: N.J. Congressman Bargains for Boy's Release

rep. chris smithABC News
rep. chris smith

While Brazilian courts deliberate the constitutionality of returning kidnapped U.S. boy Sean Goldman to his father David, one U.S. congressman is floating the idea of imposing harsh trade restrictions on Brazil until the boy is back in his father's custody.

Goldman will travel to Brazil Tuesday night to attend the Supreme Court hearing tomorrow regarding the custody of his son Sean, Rep. Chris Smith (D-N.J.) told ABC News.

"Moral persuasion only goes so far," Smith told "Good Morning America" today. "They need to follow the Hague Convention. This is probably the quintessential case of child kidnapping. ... They have failed. ... What else is left?

Dad Awaits Brazils Custody RulingPlay

"We have to say that preferential trade ... will be suspended from Brazil unless they resolve the Goldman case and get on the right path for other outstanding cases."

Smith's unorthodox proposal would cost Brazil billions of dollars in duty-free benefits in one year alone, Smith said.

"I wrote human trafficking laws; they have to have economic bite," Smith said. "Using trade [as a] lever gets the attention of offending countries."

While David Goldman's crusade to get his son back has topped headlines recently, his case is one of more than 60 cases of child abduction in Brazil and nearly 2,000 around the world.

VIDEO: Father fights for son.Play

"[David Goldman] has helped so many other people by his bravery and tenacity," Smith said. "It takes pressure on the highest levels to say, 'This is a matter of fundamental human rights and justice.'"

Five Years of Battle, Disappointed but Not Done

For the father who has been battling the Brazilian government for nearly five years to bring his kidnapped son back to the United States, getting back on the plane to New Jersey without Sean last week was devastating, especially when he had come so close.

"It's very lonely," Goldman told "Good Morning America" this morning, shortly after landing at the Newark Liberty International Airport after a judge unexpectedly reversed a decision that had given Goldman custody of his now 9-year-old son.

Sean has been living with his stepfather since the 2008 death of his mother Bruna Bianchi, who took Sean to her native Brazil on vacation in 2004 and never returned. She divorced Goldman while in Brazil and married Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a Rio de Janeiro lawyer.

Goldman had been awarded custody of Sean last week, but a single judge from Brazil's Supreme Court then suspended a lower court's order that the boy immediately be returned to his father.

"I'm going to keep the fight like I always have," Goldman said. "There's only one choice and that's to keep going until my son comes home [to New Jersey].

Playing Politics in Brazil

Goldman blamed resistance from a small political party in Brazil for the overturned decision. The group, he said, argued that the Hague Convention, which says all children taken unlawfully to another country must be immediately returned, was unconstitutional in Brazil.

There are 10 other justices on Brazil's Supreme Court. They are expected to rule on the appeal Wednesday.

While Goldman said he has gotten a number of letters and e-mails of support from Brazilian citizens, he's hoping the government will realize the public relations nightmare this case could cause if Sean is not returned.

"Brazil doesn't want to be known as a place that's going to keep other countries' and other fathers' and other mothers' children," he said.

Goldman said he's careful not to share too many details with his son during their visits together. Instead, Goldman said he works diligently to make Sean understand that he never abandoned him, something he says the boy's Brazilian family has told him.

"My point of my time with him is to reassure him how much I love him," Goldman said. "Just to look him in the eye and tell him I love him and hug him.

"Our moments are precious," he said. "We laugh and we play, and I wish it could continue."

The case has attracted a great deal of attention from U.S. political leaders, including members of the House and Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, who raised the issue of the boy's return under the Hague Convention with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Attorneys for the mother's family argue that returning Sean to his father after almost five years would cause psychological harm to the boy and say that, if he is brought back to the United States, the transition should be more gradual.