Expert says parental child abductions are on the rise

Attorney Pamela Brown discusses pursuing justice across international borders

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Sept. 25, 2012 – Pamela Brown, director of the Bi-National Family Violence Project at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, told law students that international parental kidnapping cases have become more common in recent years during a noon-hour gathering today at the University of Houston Law Center. Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid is a non-profit organization that provides free legal advice and representation to low-income residents in southwest Texas.

“Abduction rates are increasing in part due to globalization,” Brown said during the talk hosted by the Immigration and Human Rights Law Society. “The relationships of families do not end at international borders. We do not have an exit control nor would we want one. We are an international society.”

Brown noted that international parental abduction has increase by 65 percent in the United States from 2005 to 2009.  In addition, nearly one third of the children in the United States abducted by a parent end up in Mexico.

“Hundreds of Texas children are abducted by a parent every year and taken to Mexico,” Brown said. “Most of the left-behind parents don’t know where to go for help and do not have access to legal help.”

According to Brown, there are two legal frameworks for handling such cases: Internal custody litigation and the Hague Abduction Convention. Under the Hague Abduction Convention, an international treaty concluded in 1980, parents can petition for the return of their children through the civil courts. Mexico and the United States have signed the treaty and each has a government office specifically to deal with these cases.

Brown handles roughly 12 international parental kidnapping cases a year and has helped recover more than 50 children since 2001. She also runs training programs for law enforcement, social workers and lawyers across the state to prepare them for handling such issues.

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