Thursday, May 19, 2011

U.S. Courts Must Consider Travel Documenation Requirements For Children Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Carolyn Ann Vlk and I worked dilegently in trying to find the answer to the question, How Are Our Children Being Internationally Abducted And Illegally Removed From Our Country?

We believe we have found a significant part of the answer, and on behalf of Carolyn and myself, we urge you to read the titled report: "International Parental Child Abduction and Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere".

The primary concern of this report concerns international departure documentation requirements children under the age of 16 are required to present to customs agents when exiting the United States via land or sea. These requirements presently a parent or legal guardian the ability to remove a minor under the age of 16 without a valid passport. In fact, part of the concern with the present travel requirements is that a child can be legally removed from the country using a photocopy of a valid birth certificate. Additionally, if the child or children are traveling with only one parent, all that is required is that the traveling parent present a letter from the child's other parent authorizing travel. According to the government official's comments cited in the report, documentation fraud is a great concern with respect to immigration to and from the United States.

Examples of potential loophole usage of WHTI for international parental child abduction include when a parent intends to wrongfully remove a child via a closed-loop cruise. In this typical scenario a parent will board a cruise ship with their child that begins and ends in the same port; however, these cruise ships typically will have port-of-calls in other countries (Mexico and island-nations of the Caribbean), making it easy for an abduction to occur. Another example of this type of loophole is when a parent simply drives or walks across the borders between the United States and Mexico or Canada.

It is imperative that our nation's courts become aware of these loopholes so that they may act to prevent a child's abduction. Equally, it is important that legislation is passed that will modify a child's travel documentation requirements under the WHTI. As our nation's citizens continue to obtain U.S. Passports in increasingly high numbers, any previous argument that the costs of a passport are too high for vacationing families intending to travel abroad for the first time is decreasing in validity. More importantly, with thousands of at-risk children and their lives at stake, combined with the fact that international parental child abduction is increasing at substantial rates, it is now more critical than ever that we correct an outdated law while also rasing awareness of this issue so that courts and judges may take appropriate steps to prevent an abduction from occurring.

To download a PDF copy of the report, Please Click Here.

To download a Word copy of the report, Please Click Here.

In advance, thank you for taking the time to read this report - it very well may one day help you protect a defenseless child.

Peter Senese