“Rattlesnakes don’t commit suicide. Ball teams don’t strike themselves out. You’ve got to put ‘em out!”
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, on why shame alone couldn’t defeat segregationists
Time is of the essence. We’re calling on you for crucial help in the cause of bringing abducted children home by calling, writing and visiting your congressman to ask him or her to co-sponsor H. R. 1940, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011. Sponsorship and passage of this bill are the leverage we need to help us fight for our kids. The time to contribute to this effort is now.
Below you’ll find suggestions and help in getting it done.
Why now more than ever?
The fall and winter holidays are around the corner. The fall has brought new political battles and more fiscal pressure to Congress. Most importantly, very big changes are afoot in Japan. The new Prime Minister Noda is on track to deliver on a number of U.S. policy concerns at a rate not seen for decades. A window of opportunity exists to influence a process which is once again in motion! As all this comes to pass, H. R. 1940 is the definitive policy step toward rescuing our children from international abduction.
It is vitally important that calls, letters, and visits to Congressional offices advocating H.R. 1940 be as numerous as possible to overcome the inertia and resistances of our political system and give us the tools we need to act directly on abduction-practicing states such as Japan. We are asking you to ask your family members and friends to urge all of our congresspersons to co-sponsor HR 1940. An outpouring of calls and visits from constituents is the only means to significantly magnify the impact and success of this legislation.
Following the steps below is neither time consuming, nor difficult.
Here is how you can help bring abducted children home by supporting H.R. 1940:
Your congressperson needs to be provided with a written statement of our purpose. Open, save, print this handout letter (please right-click to open): Co-Sponsorship of HR 1940 International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011. This material can be used to directly seek co-sponsorship of the bill. Please follow the steps below, to assure that your Representative receives this message, loud and clear.
2. To facilitate as much participation as possible, you can easily find your congressperson’s contact information here: http://www.congress.org/
3. Use the Telephone
Once you have your congressperson’s telephone numbers and addresses, please make these two phone calls:
a. Call your Representative’s Washington D.C. office to obtain the name of the staff member who handles foreign affairs there. Call this staff member and inform him or her of your intention to visit the Congressperson’s local district office in your home town to drop off materials related to H.R. 1940, or to send the materials by mail. Tell them how much this issue and their support mean to us.
b. Call the congressperson’s local district office in your home town and ask for an appointment to speak to a staff member, preferably one who is active in foreign policy. It can sometimes be difficult to gain access to a busy congressperson, but a 10-minute appointment to see a staff member is effective and is well within your citizenship rights. If you can’t easily get an appointment with the congressional district staff near your home, you may want to make a call to the Washington D.C. office to let them know that you are having difficulty.
Important: If you call and are sent to voicemail to leave a recorded message, it may not be all that useful. Unless you have spoken to the staff member before, you are unlikely to get called back. Pin that telephone number on the wall by your desk, and try again during the next business hours. Don’t be satisfied with recording a message. You may never know if it is really heard by someone with the power to respond with action.
The next significant calendar windows in which all members of Congress should be in their home districts might be the best times to set your appointment.
4. Using the mail … postal mail!
Sending mail is another means of getting your concern to your congressperson, and it is very effective. It can supplement a personal appearance at the congressperson’s office. If you can’t make that trip, mail is the next best thing, especially when combined with a phone call. Be advised, however, that letters sent to government officials in Washington still go through an extensive security screening process that slows things down considerably! This is a product of the post-9/11 anthrax scare in D.C. So your best bet for getting a response is your Representative’s local district office.
What might you put in the envelope to mail to your congressperson?
a. Print the handout you saved and printed in Step 1 above – the Co-sponsorship of 1940 letter.
b. You can also include a personal note to the congressperson, thanking him or her for the support. Provided he or she is not a freshman, you might remind him or her of his / her prior support for the cause, voting for H. Res. 1326 in 2010, which called on the Government of Japan to address abduction and retention of U.S. children in Japan (A nearly unanimous vote, 415 – 1). That bill expressed the sense of Congress, an important first step. This year’s bill, H. R. 1940, represents concrete action, and is therefore a more urgent and significant step.
c. To help facilitate this process, I’m also offering a note of my own that you can open, save, print and send along with the Co-Sponsorship letter:
Here are two versions: The first one makes mention of my son, Rui Prager and me. So it is more personal, but it can be sent by anyone. Congress cover letter Prager (There is a blank for you to fill in your relationship with me: friend, colleague, etc.).
If you prefer, a second letter omits mention of Rui and me by name. Congress cover letter General. Either will do, as long as you support our children’s cause.
d. You might attach a business card with your phone numbers and address. Your congressional office will very likely call you in a few days to ask about your interest.
Click, open, save and print. Pop the documents in the mail. Use the addresses you found at congress.org to mail the letter and request sponsorship to your congressperson.
5. Does Email work?
The easiest and fastest way to send a message to your congressperson is by email. Since Rui’s abduction, I have tried to communicate many times with my Senators and Representatives via email. What we have learned is that spam filters tend to trap the email you send to Congressional staff members. To get around these, you must go back to step 3 above. Use the telephone. Ask the staff person to send you an email that you can reply to, or to put your name in his or her contact list. That way, your email will have a chance to get past the spam filters.
Once you have obtained the name of a congressional staff member working on foreign affairs, you may want to try this as well. Staff email addresses are usually their first and last names, so a staff member named John Smith’s email would look something like this:
This will work if there is no strong spam filter on the account. Of course, emails have a way of multiplying in a congressional inbox, so please follow up your email with phone calls!
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Keep in mind:
Nothing beats a personal appearance with papers in your hand.
- A letter in the mail with contact information may get you a return phone call. You might attach a business card.
- A phone call may get you an opportunity to speak with the right person if you persevere, someone who can hear your concern and do something about co-sponsorship of the bill.
- An email just may get noticed if it is carefully targeted.
No matter which of these steps you take, or if you take them all, we absolutely know now that it is only public pressure that will ever force the Department of State and the President to make demands on our kids’ behalf. And Congress must join in bringing that pressure in order for us to see the sons and daughters we love again.
Please, do this for us.
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Child abduction is a crime from which no child has ever emerged unscathed. Abductions are psychological murder. And if we allow them, the US and Japanese governments will continue to avoid the conflict and tensions which this human rights atrocity has the potential to bring into the relationship between our two countires. But I believe that our relationship can only be improved in the long-term by efforts to resolve this crisis and put an end to Japan’s state sponsorship of child abduction.
Consider recent history: If the government of the United States had not legislated sanctions against the government of Brazil, Sean Goldman would not be home recovering from his abduction with his loving father in New Jersey. And there are dozens and dozens of children in Brazil today whose abduction nightmares have not even been addressed, much less ended.
Silence brings more abductions. Since starting this blog, I have received letters from many newly worried parents, victims; and every time I get one, my wounds and Rui’s are opened again.
Please save, print, call, write and visit, and share this page with your families and friends. Your support means more to us right now than you may imagine.
And thank you for caring for Rui, Kana, Gunnar, Kianna, Erika, Isaac, Rebecca, Keisuke, Grace, , Hana, Joey, Leo, Mary Victoria, Matthew, Steven, Yuuki, Riki, Shanon, Cody, Jasmin, Takoda, Kaya, Ezra and thousands more kids we love, whose lives and futures hang in the balance.
We are not here to curse the darkness; we are here to light a candle. … My call is … to all who respond to the scriptural call: “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed.” For courage, not complacency, is our need today; leadership, not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously.
John F. Kennedy, July 1960 (New Frontier speech)
Very sincere thank you to Randy Collins and John Gomez for teaching me how to do this. Social movements are built on collaboration.