International Child Abduction - Part 2

ANNOUNCER

San Diego's only news at four. Only on NBC 7 San Diego.

SUSAN

Hundreds of children are abducted by their own parents and taken to a foreign country every year. Not only leaving one parent childless, but also leaving the laws of the U.S. behind.

MARI

In Mexico, those numbers are continuing to climb. NBC 7's Diana Guevara is here with more on this story.

DIANA

Well, Mari and Susan, an international child abduction is when one parent violates a custody order and takes their child out of the country. If that parent refuses to bring that child back, they will not only face local charges, but federal as well. (voiceover) Trevor Richardson has led a four-year long fight to bring his son back home. He created the website bringAndrewhome.com to get the word out after he says his ex-wife abducted their son and took off to Mexico.

ROY

These cases, unfortunately, happen all of the time.

DIANA

(voiceover) Family attorney Roy Doppelt has dealt with many international child abduction cases...cases, that according to the U.S. State Department, have grown from 300 in 2008 to 500 in 2010. The reason for the rise? Officials chalk it up to cultural, social, even economic ties to Mexico, including immigration issues. Still, the San Diego County District Attorney's office not only prosecutes these cases locally, child abduction is also a federal crime.

ROY

And the maximum sentence is up to four years in prison, and/or a $10,000 fine.

DIANA

(voiceover) But Doppelt says, for international cases, the laws for two completely different countries, make things complicated. But when it comes to Mexico and the U.S., there is an agreement known as the Hague Convention.

ROY

That means that if a United States citizen child is abducted into Mexico, the Mexican authorities will help, and should help, in the recovery of the child in return to the United States.

DIANA

(voiceover) Richardson says that agreement has failed him. So like many, he's tried other means. ..even taking his crusade to the Mexican consulate. But while many like him continue to try every avenue, the urgency of the matter remains.

ROY

For a parent to be deprived of their children or child, is very, very significant. And any abduction should be reported immediately to the police and the local prosecutor's office.

DIANA

Doppelt says Mexico's handling of many of these cases has been cooperative. He admits that there are also undocumented immigrants whose cases are currently being litigated through the local court system. But at the same time, he wants to remind people that this process is lengthy, and that besides filing a police report, a Hague petition also needs to be filed in either state or federal court. Susan.

SUSAN

Diana, thanks very much.

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