We hope this never happens to anyone else or another family
In an emergency, things move fast. Being in a foreign country where there are language barriers or other limitations can certainly add to any difficulties. With our son's death, we want to effect a positive change to ensure uniform protection for all Americans abroad.
After my son had been robbed, I contacted both the embassy in Beijing and consulate in Guangzhou for assistance. My son had contacted the consulate as well. Our family attempted to wire him $2,000 so he could get out of China. One transfer of $1,500 was to his local Chinese bank, and another $500 was sent through Western Union. He was unable to access the $500 sent via Western Union even though he knew the code word per standard Western Union practice. They wouldn’t give him the money. (Western Union has long failed to answer for this.) The $1,500 sent from America to his Chinese bank account arrived late because the sending bank inexplicably delayed in wiring the funds which were not received until after his death.
Had the embassy or consulate told us about their own emergency funds receipt service we would have used it. Neither told us we could wire the money directly to the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, who then could have given the money to our son. This is a basic service provided at all embassies and consulates worldwide, and we hope our efforts will improve service protocols like this. That's why we've contacted every member of the House of Representatives and Senate to support a simple, four-point piece of legislation to ensure better communication in situations of Americans experiencing emergencies abroad.
The Darren Russell Bill aims to make law of ensuring better protection and assistance for Americans abroad:
1 - Improved Access and Responsiveness: American citizens should have 24/7 access to all US diplomatic missions abroad and direct contact with American officials (not local contract workers) in any case of emergency.
2 - Increased Vigilance: There should be mandatory federal investigation of all unnatural deaths of and violent crimes committed against Americans abroad.
3 - Integrity and Transparency: In the event of a crime or accident, the federal government should provide all records in its possession to next-of-kin without delay or hindrance.
4 - Clear Information and Concern: In giving citizens and their families aid in emergencies, communicate to inform them about existing services like direct-to-consulate emergency funds wire transfers, etc. In the event of loss of life, offer families of overseas crime and accident victims the compassionate assistance and counseling they deserve. It's a matter of common sense ... and decency.
The simplicity and merits of this proposed legislation: policies need to be clear and uniform, and there is no objection any congressman or senator could possibly have in protecting Americans abroad. If this can be introduced, it stands to reason it should pass -- there are no special interests or money deals involved, but rather making good law to better take care of our own citizens overseas in practical and meaningful ways.
Beneficial things can come of my son's murder -- I'm sure everyone can agree that passing legislation to protect Americans abroad is one of them. Your support can make a difference. Email your representative and senators through their websites to support introduction and passage of this useful legislation.
The stated mission of US consulates and embassies is to “help Americans in distress and to protect US diplomatic interests abroad.” A streamlined, common-sense law will make their efforts and services even better.