A Fight Without Borders

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The father of Elian Gonzalez is one of literally thousands of parents in this country trying to be reunited with their children.

As CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports, Walter Benda thought daughters Mari and Ema would be a part of his life forever. Working in Japan and married to a Japanese wife, his children were born in Japan. Then, on a July morning in 1995, his world fell apart.

"I don't think they had any idea, and I didn't have any idea that that was going to be our last chance to see each other," he says thinking back.

Benda is now back in the United States and since that dark day in 1995 he has been fighting to see his daughters again. But the Japanese courts would not compel his ex-wife to reveal her whereabouts, or share the children. Benda blames Japan's cultural brick wall.

"It's pretty much accepted that children can be raised adequately with only the mother around," he says.

As the case of Elian Gonzalez is proving, the United States is often far more careful about parental rights than many other countries. By some estimates there are as many as 16,000 children caught in limbo, American children whisked away by a parent to their home country, or children born outside the united states, like here in Japan, kept away from their American parent.

For Benda, the quest for his daughters is all consuming. "There's nothing more important in my life right now than to reach a resolution of this problem," he says

When it comes to bickering parents, in any custody fight, whether in Miami or in Tokyo, the real victims are always the children.