A desperate father's case that has attracted international headlines has now led him to the doorstep of a local congressman's office.
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On Wednesday, John Smith stood in protest outside of the Vista office of Rep. Darrell Issa.
"I'm here to send a message to Congressman Darrell Issa," said Smith.
It's the latest chapter in a painful story involving his sons, Keoni, and twins Lance and Mason.
In 2004, amid a custody dispute that was leaning Smith's way, authorities said his wife, Francina Fernandez, abducted the kids and took them to the Philippines. An international arrest warrant was issued, but Fernandez was not sent back to the U.S. because kidnapping your own child is not considered a crime in the Philippines.
Smith showed 10News surveillance video of Fernandez and the boys in Manila a few years ago, when Smith organized a rescue operation.
However, the effort failed when Fernandez was somehow notified of the plan. That was the last time Smith saw his sons, who are now 11 and 10 years old.
"Every moment of the day, they're in my heart and thoughts. I can't even begin to describe not being able to see my sons. There are some days that are really brutal to get through, like special occasions and holidays," said Smith.
Hope entered Smith's heart in the form of a similar case.
In 2009, David Goldman was reunited with his son, who was taken to Brazil. The effort to bring the child back to Goldman was led by a congressman.
Smith decided to turn to Issa for help.
About four months ago, Smith said he arrived at Issa's office and met for an hour with Philip Paule, Issa's district director.
"At that meeting, I was told they'd write a round of letters," said Smith.
Smith said Paule -- now running for state Assembly -- told him that they would look into the threat of sanctions against the Philippines.
After many unreturned calls and emails, Smith said he was told by an intern that no letters would be written. The non-action prompted Smith to write a message for Issa and to stage a protest outside of Issa's office.
"How can they write off three beautiful American citizen boys taken from America's Finest City
and say end of story?" said Smith. "I just want to be a father, and my sons deserve to have a father in their lives."
Issa's office issued the following statement:
"Mr. Smith's situation is tragic
Unfortunately, this situation extends beyond the control and jurisdiction of the United States government. While
our office stands ready to assist Mr. Smith in his interactions with federal agencies in this matter, Mr. Smith did not make such a request or sign authorizations that would allow the office to intervene."
"That's just not true. I signed at least one release form and have always been willing to sign anything. I simply don't think Congressman Issa is willing to help like Congressman [Chris] Smith helped David Goldman," said Smith.
Smith recently won a civil judgment against Fernandez's parents for financing the abduction. Fernandez's parents, who live in the San Diego area, are now challenging the ruling.
Smith plans to resume his protest Thursday morning.
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