International child abduction in Mexico
Mexico is amongst the world's most popular sources and destinations for international child abduction while also being widely regarded as having one of the least effective systems of protecting and returning internationally abducted children within its borders.
To help protect abducted children Mexico signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1991, the Inter-American Convention on the International Return of Children and the Inter-American Convention on International Traffic in Minors.
Since adhering to the Hague Abduction Convention, the world's most recognized and utilized instrument for addressing international child abduction or parental child trafficking, Mexico has been repeatedly criticized for enjoying the benefit of having its treaty partners protect Mexico's own internationally abducted children, while being consistently non-compliant in fulfilling its reciprocal obligations to protect and return children abducted to Mexico. To date its procedures for enforcing its treaty obligations are unpredictable and entirely ineffective. The Centre for International Family Law Studies in Cardiff, Wales compared seven jurisdictions, including Mexico. The conclusion was that Mexico was by far the worst offender in its failure to return abducted children.
In consideration of Mexico's history of noncompliance, as documented extensively over the past 11 years in the US State Department's annual compliance reports, Texas courts made a landmark decision finding Mexico's legal system ineffective and lacking legal mechanisms for the immediate and effective enforcement of child custody orders and, furthermore stating, Mexico posed a risk to children's physical health and safety due to human rights violations committed against children, including child labor and a lack of child abuse laws.
The US State Department has posted many travel warnings for Mexico including at least one every year since 2007. In 2010, the murder of three Americans connected to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez prompted the US State Department to modify their warning to authorize the departure of children dependents of U.S. government personnel in U.S. consulates and offer financial assistance to relocating families.
Child abduction has been defined as a form of child abuse.
Recovery of abducted children from MexicoEdit
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Broadly defined, there are five principal avenues for attempting to recover children abducted to Mexico: the Hague Convention, deportation/expulsion, criminal extradition, domestic Mexican family law and other, mostly extralegal, options.
The Hague Convention is widely viewed as completely ineffective in Mexico with the country being extensively cited as having problems with nearly every aspect of its implementation. Oftentimes children can not be located for Convention proceedings to start due to problems with law enforcements performance. Law enforcement has reported an inability to locate children even when parents have reported giving them the children's exact address in Mexico. Although, Mexico claims to provide free legal representation for victim parents the provided representation is often completely unable to move the case forward and will only represent the parent during the natural trial, not during appeals. Parents who have been able to gain traction in Mexican courts have turned to private attorneys. Even when these attorneys have won favorable verdicts they are not enforced if the abductor files appeals or amparos which suspend enforcement of the decision until they've been adjudicated, frequently causing years of delays. In the unlikely event that children are located, legal proceedings commence, all appeals are heard and a final return order is issued, the abductor may appeal the manner in which the order is enforced (though it is less likely that enforcement will be suspended in such cases.) Once all judicial hurdles to enforcement have been cleared law enforcement issues can arise anew due to their inability to locate children as in the case of the Combe-Rivas abduction where, after four years, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a final decision ordering the child's return in June 2009. To date the decision remains unenforced due to an inability to locate the child.
Domestic family lawEdit
Mexican courts grant automatic custody of children below 7–12 years (depending on the state) to mothers unless they have been proven to be unfit. This maternal preference has been the subject of Constitutional challenges on the basis that the Mexican Constitution enshrines the equality of the sexes, but has been upheld on the grounds that the Constitution also protects the integrity of the family. Custody cases are also not immune to many of the problems found in Hague cases and, even if a custody decision were to be won it would not necessarily allow for the child to be taken back out of Mexico. In cases where taking the child back out of Mexico to the home country is sought the decision can be subject to the same lack of enforceability pending the exhaustion of all appeals that plagues Hague Convention applications.
The current Extradition Treaty between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (see 31 U.S.T. 5061) was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and went into effect in 1980. Like many such treaties, it provides for the extradition of a party who has been charged with or found guilty of an offense committed in the United States, who has fled to Mexico. An offense is extraditable if it is a crime in both countries and punishable by incarceration for a period of one year or more. In theory this allows for the extradition of child abductors who have absconded to Mexico as child abduction is a federal crime there. In practice US authorities rarely request extradition in preference of Hague Convention litigation and, even when they do, Mexico is not bound to deliver up its nationals. If extradition is denied based on nationality, the request for extradition is automatically converted into a foreign prosecution pursuant to Article IV of the Mexican Federal Penal Code. Although by law Mexican authorities are authorized to extradite their own nationals in “exceptional circumstances”, in practice they most often will refuse to do so. (See “Ley De Extradicion Internacional”, enacted May 19, 1897, revised January 10, 1994: “extradition of Mexican nationals is prohibited except in “exceptional” circumstances”.) “Nationality” is also liberally construed and often, marriage to a national, having dual citizenship, parents or other close relatives who are Mexican nationals, or simply having a Hispanic surname will suffice for purposes of extradition.
Prosecutors in Mexico have asserted that prosecution under Article IV of the Mexican Penal Code is sufficient compliance with the Extradition Treaty and allows Mexico to try fugitives for crimes committed in a foreign territory by a Mexican citizen. The trial is conducted in accordance with Mexican Federal Law when the accused has not been tried in the country where he committed the offense. Although efforts are underway to address the widespread corruption which has historically plagued Mexican judicial and law enforcement communities, little is known about the results of Article IV prosecutions. Often warrants remain in their system, unserved, for years. Prosecutions are commenced and then dismissed or have their sentences substantially reduced in appellate courts. No verifiable system exists to track sentences served. Demands for such information have been mostly ignored by the Mexican government. Informal surveys of law enforcement regarding the results of such prosecution reveal an abysmal record. Approximately 85% of the cases appear to have never been prosecuted. The remaining cases appear to result in acquittals or vastly reduced sentences in comparison to what would have been the sentence in the United States. The Extradition Treaty bars future extradition once a “trial” has been conducted in either country and, regardless of the result, double jeopardy provisions generally bar subsequent prosecution in many US States if the suspect returns to the United States, regardless of the outcome in Mexico.
Additionally, even if extradition of the abductor is successful, it does not guarantee the return of an abducted child. Extended families of parental child abductors in Mexico, including aunts and grandparents, have also been able to tie up repatriation efforts, under the Hague Convention or Mexican family law, for years.
Deportation or expulsionEdit
Deportation and expulsion options are frequently quite successful at returning child abductors and children, but can only be used when the abductor is not a citizen of Mexico as the Mexican Constitution prohibits the deportation of its citizens.
Corruption and crime in MexicoEdit
Corruption is an intrinsic part of the problem with international child abduction in Mexico and affects every other aspect of the issue from locating children and judicial decisions to enforcing court orders for repatriation in the rare cases where the obstacles of locating children and judicial noncompliance have been overcome. Parents of children abducted to Mexico have reported being asked for a "mordida" (literally "bite", ubiquitoius slang for bribe in Mexico) in order for Mexican officials to do routine work. Mexico bears the stigma of being considered one of the most corrupt countries in the hemisphere. Experts say the corruption extends from ordinary citizens to high reaches of government and that most Mexicans have become accustomed to paying bribes and to the notion that the average police officer will try to shake them down in some way.
A 2005 study measuring corruption by Berlin-based Transparency International found that 50 percent of Mexicans remain pessimistic about corruption and believe it will get worse. The survey showed that Mexico was one of the top four countries where the largest number of respondents answered yes when asked if they or someone in their family had paid any kind of bribe in the last 12 months. In Mexico the ruling elite often operate outside of the law leading to the police becoming an instrument by which the rule of force is implemented. Without respect for the rule of law economic activity becomes arbitrary and unpredictable, and something as simple as a business contract can quickly become unenforceable.
A United Nations Special Rapporteur undertook a mission to Mexico in 2002 to investigate reports by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights that the country's judiciary and administration of law was not independent. During the course of his visit to a number of cities, the rapporteur observed that corruption in the judiciary had not been reduced significantly. One of the principal issues is that, because the federal courts operate at a relatively high level, most citizens are compelled to seek justice in the inadequate state courts. Additionally, the rapporteur expressed concerns about such issues as disorganization in the legal profession, difficulties and harassment faced by lawyers, poor trial procedures, poor access to the justice system for indigenous peoples and minors, and lacklustre investigation of many crimes.
According to the 2009 Human Rights Report prepared by the US State Department, although the judiciary is independent, weaknesses in the system, particularly in jurisdictions where reforms have not been implemented, make court decisions susceptible to improper influence by both private and public entities, particularly at the state and local level. Civil society organizations reported that corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of transparency continued to be major problems in the judiciary. NGO representatives reported that the country's conviction rate was only between 1 and 2 percent, citing a general indifference and ineffectiveness of the justice system. A poll conducted by Grupo Reforma and published in a Mexico City daily in August found that 68 percent of respondents had no or little trust in the judiciary.
In addition to being unable to locate children or adjudicate child abduction cases, Mexico also has one of the highest general kidnapping rates in the world, with dozens of adult U.S. citizens among the victims. Officially, an average of 70 people are abducted by strangers each month, although private security firms say the real figure is 10 times higher.
Mexican Legal SystemEdit
Mexico is a federal republic, composed of 31 states and a Federal District (Distrito Federal.) Mexico's legal system is basically a civil law jurisdiction derived from a mixture of Roman Law and the French Napoleonic Code. There is little binding case law in Mexico. Judgments made at the Federal level by the Mexican Supreme Court and federal circuit courts, or at the State level by the Tribunal Superior de Justicicia are not widely published and are of persuasive value only. There is some binding case law, known as jurisprudencia. For this to be made binding, an issue must be interpreted the same way in five consecutive Amparo trials, and there must not be a conflicting decision by the Supreme Court. In each of the 31 states in Mexico, state law establishes the structure and function of the courts, as well as its own constitution, laws, regulations, and decrees. Generally, state courts are organized in the following way: the highest appellate court is known as the Superior Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de Justicia); this court is followed by the Courts of First Instance (Tribunales de Primera Instancia) of ordinary jurisdiction, responsible for hearing civil, criminal and commercial causes.
The Amparo in MexicoEdit
The Amparo, which translates to "protection" or "help", is a Mexican legal procedure to protect constitutional rights that was incorporated into the 1847 national constitution. Mexico's "recurso de amparo" is found in Articles 103 and 107 of the Mexican Constitution Any Mexican citizen can file an amparo claiming that a Mexican authority is violating their constitutional rights. Federal District courts are available in every state in Mexico and have secretaries available 24 hours a day 365 days a year to receive an Amparo. In cases of international child abduction an amparo can be filed at any point and effectively blocks progression of legal procedures until it has been heard, often many months, or even years later. The decision in an Amparo trial can also be further appealed and multiple amparos may be filed during legal proceedings under the Hague Convention.
Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child AbductionEdit
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, commonly referred to as the Hague Abduction Convention is the primary instrument for addressing international abduction cases in Mexico. The convention is (from November 2013) in force between Mexico and all other parties to the convention except Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro (which have to accept the ratification of Mexico), and Kazakhstan (which ratification has to be accepted by Mexico). The US Department of State has listed Mexico as non-compliant or "demonstrating patterns of noncompliance" with the Hague Convention every year that compliance reports began being published in 1999 citing numerous problems across all aspects of Convention compliance and implementation in Mexico including law enforcement, judicial, legislative and central authority performance.
Mexican Central AuthorityEdit
Article 6 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction stipulates that each "contracting State" shall designate a Central Authority to discharge the duties which are imposed by the Convention. Article 7 of the Convention details the responsibilities of Central Authorities requiring they co-operate with foreign Central Authorities to promote cooperation amongst the competent authorities in their respective States to secure the prompt return of children by taking all appropriate measures, either directly or through any intermediary, to locate and protect abducted children and facilitate their prompt repatriation to their place of habitual residence prior to their abduction.
Mexico has designated an office within its primary foreign affairs organization the, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Secretary of Foreign Relations) to fulfill the role of Mexican Central Authority—specifically the Family Right's Office ("Oficina de Derecho de Familia") of the Division of Protection and Consular Affairs ("Dirección General de Protección y Asuntos Consulares.")
In addition to the Central Authority designated by Mexico in accordance with Article 6 of the Convention, Mexico has appointed State level Central Authorities. The Central Authority to which Hague applications may be addressed for transmission to the appropriate State Central Authority remains the federal Central Authority.
Courts Empowered to Hear Hague CasesEdit
There are five levels of Mexican courts that a Hague case may pass through before becoming a final order. Although Mexican federal and state courts have double jurisdiction to hear Hague cases they are normally filed and heard in the family court with jurisdiction over the area that the abducted child is in.
|Mexico Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación)|
|Circuit Courts (Tribunales de Circuito)|
|District Courts (Juzgados de Distrito)|
|Superior Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de Justicia)|
|Civil Courts of First Instance (Tribunales Civiles de Primera Instancia)|
The Mexican Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. The circuit Courts hear appeals. The District Courts hear Amparos.
Legislative Problems in Hague CasesEdit
Under the Mexican Constitution international treaties have direct effect and are, like federal laws, are hierarchically above all State laws but beneath the constitution. Mexico has never formally adopted other laws or procedures to implement the Hague Convention in its domestic legal codes. There is some debate as to the correct legal precedence to be applied when federal laws and international treaties are in conflict. In theory this gives the treaty sufficient legal clout to be effective but, in practice, the lack of implementing legislation leads to many divergent and contradictory interpretations of the Convention which is intentionally vague in certain areas to allow for it to apply to a broad range of cases.
Mexico, like the United States, is composed of individual states with great latitude to make their own laws so long as those laws don't conflict with federal laws and, in particular, the countries, Magna Carta (constitution). Every state in Mexico, besides one, has laws granting automatic custody to mother's during a divorce until the child reaches the age of 7. In the one state to vary from this norm the maternal preference is until age 12. These laws have been the subject of constitutional challenges on the basis that the Mexican Constitution guarantees the equality of the sexes but have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Mexico (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) since the Constitution also requires the proper development of the family and, by extension, minor children.
U.S. Congressmen have noted the worsening situation concerning child abduction and states like Mexico that "routinely invoke the Article 13 exceptions as a justification for non-return, rather than resorting to [the exceptions] in a small number of . . .cases.” Congressman emphasized that two of the Convention's exceptions are overly used by some nation-states to justify this refusal to comply with the Convention The two exceptions most often evoked are the “grave risk” exception and the “child objection” exception and that Mexico was one of the most notorious abusers of these exceptions.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the ChildEdit
The Convention on the Rights of the Child enumerates the fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. Because of the precedence afforded international treaties in Mexico the CRC is of critical importance to legal issues related to children and is frequently cited during domestic Child custody cases as well as cases of child abduction. There are a number of articles that deal indirectly or directly with child abduction in the CRC and demonstrate the violations of children's rights that frequently occur during international child abductions:
Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention protect a child's right to a name and a nationality.
Article 9 protects a child's right to not be separated from his or her parents against their will and to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.
In accordance with Article 9, Article 10 stipulates that applications for international travel for purposes of family unification be dealt with in a positive, humane and expeditious manner and that the submission of such a request shall entail no adverse consequences for the applicants and for the members of their family.
Articles 11 and 35, specifically exhort State Parties to take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad and promote the conclusion of bilateral or multilateral agreements or accession to existing agreements and measures to prevent the abduction of children.
Problems Locating ChildrenEdit
One of the primary road blocks to Mexico's successful implementation of the Hague Abduction Convention is its inability to locate children. This issue has been cited numerous times in the US State Department's annual Compliance Reports. In some cases the US State Department has reported providing Mexican authorities with detailed information on the whereabouts of abducted children including the exact address where they are living but Mexican authorities still report an inability to locate the children. In one case it took over a year for an abducted child to be located. Once located a nearly three year legal battle ensued which was fought all the way to the Mexican Supreme Court which confirmed the lower courts decision ordering the child's return in June 2009. The abducting parent subsequently went back into hiding and the Supreme Courts order remains unenforced due to Mexico's inability to locate the child. In late 2009 the Mexican Central Authority gave a presentation at an international symposium on international child abduction where they cited improvements as a result of turning over the responsibility of locating children to the Mexican Federal Police, or AFI, rather than exclusively using Interpol who has no authority and must request the involvement of Mexican law enforcement to take any real measures in Mexico.
Child abduction between Mexico and SpainEdit
Spain is itself a nation cited as a country of concern in the 2002 US State Department Compliance Report. Mexico and Spain both report problems recovering internationally abducted children from each other's countries. In 2009 Patricia Espinosa, the secretary of Mexican foreign relations, publicly commented that, although both Spain and Mexico had signed the Hague Convention, neither of the countries had returned an abducted child to the other country since 2006 in spite of there being nine abductions of Mexican children to Spain and 12 abductions of Spanish children to Mexico during the same time period. This mutual noncompliance in honoring the Hague treaty has prompted some to say that both countries are paying each other with the same currency. In 2009 two Spanish fathers made the news in Mexico and Spain for the difficulties they were having in recovering their abducted children from the grandparents of their wives who had recently died of cancer. In both cases the Mexican family filed amparo appeals blocking enforcement of judicial decisions ordering the children returned home to their surviving custodial parent in Spain. One father, after 13 months of litigation and being granted custody of the child in Mexico but denied the ability to leave the country till the decision became final, fled the country and returned to Spain before the legal process finished amidst objections by Mexican authorities that he had acted illegally by removing his son before Mexican courts had finished the lengthy appeal process.
Child abduction between Mexico and the USAEdit
Overwhelmingly, Mexico is the number one destination for international child abductions from the United States and the United States is the number one destination for children abducted from Mexico. The U.S. State Department reports that 65% of all outgoing international parental abductions from the United States to Hague Convention countries are to Mexico, and that 41% of all incoming international parental abductions to the United States are from Mexico.
United States – Mexico border securityEdit
The U.S.–Mexico border has the highest number of both legal and illegal crossings of any land border in the world. The border is guarded by more than seventeen thousand border patrol agents, however they only have "effective control" of less than 700 miles of the 1,954 miles of total border. There are an estimated half a million illegal entries into the United States each year. Investigations have indicated that between 1990 and November 2008, 93 cross-border tunnels were discovered, 35 of which were in California, 57 in Arizona, and 1 in Washington State. In terms of international child abduction from the US into Mexico specifically, the problem of poor border security in general is compounded by the fact the United States does not have exit controls; American children may be taken across the southern border of the United States without even having the necessary documentation to get back into the country. Furthermore, there is no accounting for children taken across the border into Mexico, leading to thousands of missing children posters with the words "may have traveled to Mexico" on them.
Abduction by the NumbersEdit
Most of the general statistics on child abduction are extrapolated from a 1990 Department of Justice study called National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children. The study indicated 354,100 abductions per year by family members in custody disputes. The same study reports about 114,600 stranger-abductions are attempted per year, of which about 3,200 to 4,600 are successful.
One of the few sources for numbers of abductions across international borders is the United States Department of State which acts as the United States Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, although even they preface these numbers with the warning that "Under the Convention, return applications may also be filed either directly with the Central Authority of the state where the child is located or with a foreign court with jurisdiction to hear the return request. The left-behind parent may pursue return without involving the U.S. Central Authority. In these circumstances, the U.S. Central Authority may never know about such a request and its disposition". Although the State Department published compliance reports for 1998 through 2008 it only began publishing the number of "new cases" in a given year in 2007. In 2009, an article published by a State Department public outreach coordinator also listed the totals for years 2006-2008.
International abductions from the United States to Mexico as a percent of total international child abductions
|Year||Total||To Mexico||To All Hague Countries||To Non-Hague Countries||%Total Abductions||%Hague Abductions|
From the above data for years 2006-2008 we can see that the overall number of abductions increased by 23% year of year in 2006 and 40% in 2007, and that abductions to Mexico specifically increased 67% over in 2007.
- There is a discrepancy in the 2008 report. In the introduction of the report it states "In FY 2008, the USCA assisted many LBPs in the United States with ongoing cases and responded to 1,082 new IPCA cases involving 1,615 children". Although looking at the actual statistics in the report only 1600 are accounted for. The cause for these missing missing children is unknown.
Criticism of the United States government's roleEdit
Child abduction to Mexico from the US is as much an American policy problem as it is a Mexican one. Inasmuch as Mexico is cited for failing to take appropriate measures to curb the international abduction of children, the US government is likewise criticized for not taking appropriate measures to protect American children or support American parents in their efforts to recover their internationally abducted children. The proximity and close relationship between the United States and Mexico makes the problems of one country the problems of both and, by extension, places the responsibility of addressing the problem on both countries. US officials[who?] recognize this and have increasingly worked to assist Mexico by providing training and education to Mexican judges and law enforcement. This type of bilateral cooperation is part of a broadening recognition of the responsibility both nations share in addressing problems in the region, and is most notably demonstrated in the Mérida Initiative, the $1.4 billion aid package to help Mexico interdict illicit drugs, arms and human trafficking.
US State DepartmentEdit
American parents[who?] complain that they are essentially alone in dealing with foreign courts and legal systems. The US State Department has a virtual monopoly on information in such cases, but refuses to act as a vigorous advocate for left-behind American parents while also preventing the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or anyone else from playing that role. State Department attorney Thomas Johnson remarked that when he reminded one senior State Department official with Child Abduction Convention responsibilities that she works for the American people, her immediate response was: "I don’t work for the American people; I work for the Secretary of State", demonstrating the Department's inherent conflict of interest (i.e., a desire to maintain "good" bilateral foreign relations for their own sake that overrides assertive and effective advocacy on behalf of American citizens).
The problem of international child abduction in Mexico has been raised in several congressional inquiries.
"In Mexico, the destination country for the largest number of children abducted from the U.S., but from which only 25 children returned in 2003... The United States has no more important Hague Abduction Convention partner than Mexico. The number of cases we witness of children being taken to or from the U.S. and Mexico dwarf those we see with any other country. Especially troubling is the number of cases in Mexico that have remained unresolved after more than 18 months. There are presently 22 such cases, some now over five years old; in contrast, we have no more than two such cases with any other Hague partner. Among the underlying causes of Mexico's poor performance overall under the Hague Convention appear to be a woefully understaffed and underfunded Central Authority in the Foreign Ministry; a judiciary unfamiliar with, and not infrequently hostile to, the Convention; and law enforcement and court authorities unable to locate children even in cases in which we and the left-behind parents can provide exact addresses. In general, Mexico has only partially implemented the Hague Abduction Convention into its legal, administrative and law enforcement systems. As a result, we found Mexico to be non-compliant in our last Annual Hague Compliance Report."
- John Walsh, Television Host of America's Most Wanted and Co-Founder, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
"I was here once before when we bailed out Mexico with the NAFTA treaty. The peso was falling apart. I was down in Mexico doing shows, drug dealers and cartels everywhere, and we were going to lend them billions of dollars. And I went to President Clinton myself and then Attorney General Janet Reno, and I said we need one thing. If we are going to bail Mexico out, let us make them sign an extradition treaty of fugitives, murders, criminals and get our kids back from Mexico. Right? Did not happen. What a perfect time for us to say we are going to save your entire country, we are going to lend you billions of dollars and shore up your economy, but you know what, since that meeting with President Clinton we now have on record over 3,000 murders and fugitives down there and we do not know how many kids".
- Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman( New York) and Chairman of the Committee on International Relations
It is unfortunate that we are in the position of having to criticize by name several nations with whom we have otherwise friendly relations, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Honduras and Mexico, but it is clear from the circumstances that it is necessary to do so. I want to commend the gentleman from Ohio Mr. Chabot, who, on behalf of some 132 cosponsors, introduced this measure. I would also like to thank Mr. Lampson from Texas as the Chairman of the Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, and Mr. Ose from the State of California, who have devoted much of their time to raising our level of awareness of the growing problem of international child abduction. We are taking action on this measure on behalf of the parents of our abducted and wrongfully retained children. These left-behind parents have put their faith and trust in an international agreement, The Hague Convention, which is clear and explicit on the obligation of signatory governments to return an abducted or wrongfully retained child to his or her country of habitual residence. Nevertheless, we have found that in a number of nations, for a variety of reasons, this does not occur, and the resultant frustration, heartbreak and outrage has led us to act on the measure before us today. I should also add that we need to have our State Department do more to promote compliance with The Hague Convention. The return of an abducted or illegally retained child should be on the top of the Secretary's meetings with any official of a country involved in such cases. This is not a problem that should be handled as a routine exchange of diplomatic notes or phone calls by junior U.S. officials to their foreign counterparts. We need to see some concern and some concrete actions by the highest levels of our government to redress what is, evidently, a growing international problem. It is our hope that by adopting this resolution, and sending it to the floor for speedy action, we will send a strong signal that this is an issue that we care deeply about. We need to get the attention of the Governments of Germany, Sweden, Austria, Mexico, and Honduras that they cannot expect The Hague Convention to be a one-way street.
- Honorable Bernard W. Aronson, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (1989–1993)
"..the current system to secure the return of these abducted American children does not work and will not work unless it is changed profoundly. I don't doubt the sincerity or the dedication of the professionals in the State Department who have lead responsibility for this problem, but they do not have the tools and powers to do their job effectively. And unless Congress gives them the power and the tools we will be back here in five years or 10 years with another set of hearings, another group of parents with broken hearts and devastated dreams, and we will be making the same statements we are making today."
"the principal reason other nations, whether they are signatories to the Hague Convention or not, refuse to cooperate with the United States in returning abducted American children is that there are no real consequences for failing to do so."
"Let me be blunt, a diplomatic request for which there are no consequences for refusal is just a sophisticated version of begging. And there are no consequences today for Brazil or any other nation which refuses to return American children."
History of noncompliance: US State Department Compliance ReportsEdit
In recognition of the fact that the US State Department would not voluntarily inform Congress, U.S. courts, law enforcement authorities, family law attorneys or the general public about the gross noncompliance of foreign countries in adhering to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, Congress enacted an annual reporting requirement obligating the State Department to publish a detailed annual report on the reliability and effectiveness of the Convention in protecting and securing the return of abducted American children in foreign countries hoping that the law would make available a unique and vitally important source of information to parents, courts, governments and attorneys worldwide. These reports are known as the Hague Abduction Convention Compliance Reports or simply Compliance Reports.
These reports highlight countries of particular concern in that they are noncompliant with the Convention or exhibit a "pattern of noncompliance." Since 1999 Mexico has been cited every year as being noncompliant or exhibiting "patterns of noncompliance" for numerous problems, such as a failure to locate children, failure to understand international law, and failures to enforce their own judicial decisions due to widespread abuse of the Amparo procedure. In addition to the summary details on Mexico below, the reports in modern years have included extended details on dozens of individual cases that have not been resolved, or even progressed, in years.
- AMBER Alert
- Human rights in Mexico
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- International child abduction in Brazil
- International child abduction in Japan
- International child abduction in the United States
- Mexico – United States relations
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- National Human Rights Commission (Mexico)
- Trafficking of children
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