I CARE Foundation: Unreported Cases of International Child Abduction Surges as Department of State Recruits Lawyers to Join "Hague Convention Attorney Network"

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As the number of unreported cases of international child abduction is expected to have significantly eclipsed the number of reported cases of international parental child abduction, the I CARE Foundation is urging undocumented residents to seek the assistance of the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues, and for lawyers interested in helping defenseless targeted children to join the "Hague Convention Attorney Network".

I CARE Foundation, Department of State, International Child Abduction, Lawyers

Peter Thomas Senese' CHASING THE CYCLONE

Personally, I never had or even heard of a deportation due to reporting a child missing.

The I CARE Foundation's recently published resource guide on international child abduction titled 'The World Turned Upside Down' states the total number of 'unreported' cases of international child abduction in the United States is surging at levels forecasted to be equal to or greater than the total number of 'reported' cases due to a lack of knowledge by undocumented residents living in the United States and due to limited understanding by family lawyer practitioners that legal remedies exist under the Hague Convention that can enable for the return of a child. As international child abduction grows to epidemic proportions, the I CARE Foundation seeks lawyers to join the Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network".

Many undocumented residents living in the United States who have had their child abducted abroad do not realize they have legal rights under the Hague Convention or are hesitant to turn to OC I for assistance, though OCI is willing and able to assist them under rules of The Hague Convention.

Due to limited understanding by undocumented residents living in the United States, along with attorneys practicing family law who are unfamiliar with the provisions of The Hague Convention and a child's habitual residency, the majority of targeted undocumented parents of abduction are never reunited with their abducted child due to their failure to file a Hague Convention case with the Department of State. Prevalent amongst unreported abduction are cases of abduction occurring on American soil by undocumented residents who originate from Mexico, South and Central America.

St. Petersburg, Florida Attorney Patricia Lee, a Director of the I CARE Foundation and a member of the Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network" commented, "It is the clear policy of the United States’ implementing agency for the Hague Convention to assist parents victimized by child abduction, regardless of their residency status. It is shocking and heartbreaking to know that any parent would feel they could not avail themselves of what may be the only help available to them to reunite with their children across international borders, out of fear of personal retaliation. In this time of such criticism of our government, I am very proud to know that our State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues takes such a position. They maintain lists of referral attorneys, many of whom are willing to assist victimized parents on a reduced fee or pro bono basis. The office also maintains lists of knowledgeable mentor attorneys, and experienced staff in all areas of child abduction and abduction prevention. They are a wealth of information and assistance to victimized parents, including in obtaining assistance in other countries. Anything we can do to get the word out to legal professionals and every victimized parent, regardless of national origin or residency status, is crucial to staunch the flow of these cases worldwide. Critically, undocumented residents in the United States need to know that if their child is abducted abroad, both they and their child have legal remedy available to them - and it starts with the State Department's Office of Children's Issues”

Gloria Nyberg, born in Bogota, Columbia, a member of I CARE's Advisory Board, and a child advocate with a long and esteemed history of reuniting children who have been particularly abducted to South and Central America, said, "Over 20 years ago, when I first became aware of the incredible amount of children taken by parents and strangers out of the United States, many of them to never been seeing again by the families, I decided to help and bring some remedy to the problem. I have worked successfully with the Mexican and other Latin American countries' governments in particular, assuring the undocumented community living in the United States that the government will cooperate with them and try to protect and return their children regardless of their legal residency status. Personally, I never had or even heard of a deportation due to reporting a child missing. In my many years of experience in these area, and having helped to bring over 60 children back to their custodial parent, I have always found the United States governmental agencies have cooperated extremely cooperative regardless of immigration status. Undocumented residents need to know that they can turn to the OCI for assistance because the individuals are there to truly help them and their abducted children."

A highly informative report compiled by the renowned Washington based Pew Hispanic Center reports that most immigrant groups are comprised of young families. The likelihood that a child will be born while the parents are present in the U.S. is high. Prior to 2007, data collected on parents of children under 18 only identified one parent, and a second parent could only be identified if they were married to the first parent. Currently, a second parent identifier is considered whether or not the parents are married to each other.

In 2008, 22% of all children in the United States had at least one foreign-born parent. According to the Center for Immigration Studies in its March 2007 analysis, immigrants and their U.S. born children under age 18, as a share of population is as follows:

California - 37.9%,
Los Angles County - 50%,
New York State - 27.9%,
New York City - 46.7%
Florida - 27.9%.

Although 31.3% of all immigrants originate from Mexico, other countries have significant entry numbers as well. Included in the March 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS) were statistics indicating that 17.6% of all immigrants were from East/Southeast Asia, 12.5% from Europe, 5.5% from South Asia, 3.5% from the Middle East, and Canada at 1.9%.

Traditionally, states such as California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Arizona have had large numbers of immigrants in their population. What is surprising is the trends in migration toward new centers of immigrant growth. Most notably, Wyoming, which experienced a percentage increase of 180%, Tennessee at 160%, Georgia at 152.1%, and Alabama at 143.6%. The impact of unprecedented increases in immigrant migration is likely to create multiple challenges as states struggle to keep pace with their newest segment of population and their children.

In 2007 CPS, it was estimated that of the approximately 37.9 million immigrants present in the U.S., nearly 1 in 3 immigrants were present illegally.

In regards to children born to illegal immigrants, in the five-year period from 2003 to 2008, that number rose from 2.7 million to 4 million. The report published by the Pew Hispanic Centers reported that nationally the children of illegal immigrants now comprise 1 in 15 elementary and secondary students in the U.S. In Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas more than 1 in every 10 students in those states are the children of illegal immigrants.

One of the most recent Department of State reports to Congress reports that over 1,640 American children abducted abroad. In addition, a recent Government Accountability Office report cites that the number of reported international child abduction cases nearly tripled from 2006 to 2009. According to the published findings cited in Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk's 'The World Turned Upside Down', if current growth projections occur, over 50,000 American children will be 'reported' abducted internationally from now until 2020. This number is expected to be mirrored by the number of 'unreported' cases.

New York attorney Joel S. Walter, a Director of the I CARE Foundation, stated, "It is unfortunate that children who have habitual residency in the United States and are the offspring of undocumented residents are internationally abducted without the targeted parent knowing that they and their children have rights under the Hague Convention and that the Office of Childrens Issues is there to assist them. Part of the I CARE Foundation's mission is to help educate this community and potentially attorneys who may be of assistance to them."

For more information, the I CARE Foundation urges all parents, including documented and undocumented residents, who have had a child of habitual residency living in the United States, to contact the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Outreach Division for further information. Lawyers representing undocumented parents or who are interested in finding out more information, including those considering joining the "Hague Convention Attorney Network" are also urged to contact OCI.

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