Thursday, October 21, 2010
International Parental Child Abduction Prevention Tools: The Prevent Departure Program
Prevent Departure Program - A Useful Tool That May Prevent International Parental Child Abductions From Occurring by Peter Thomas Senese
International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) has become a global epidemic best exemplified in an assortment of distinct government reports including the most recent 2010 United States Department of State’s Hague Compliance Report prepared for Congress, as well as various non-government reports including the findings published in ‘Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction’ Carolyn Vlk and I prepared.
Statistically, the number of international child abductions originating from the United States is alarming. This number, similar to other nations throughout the world, is growing.
According to the most recent Compliance Report issued by the Department of State (2010 Compliance Report measures statistics created during Fiscal Year 2009), there were 1,135 reported cases of parental child abduction in 2009 representing 1,621 children. The number of new outgoing cases has almost doubled since Fiscal Year 2006, from 642 reported cased to now 1,135 reported cases. It is anticipated that the number of reported cases will continue to escalate substantially.
However, many individuals consider these statistics to be inaccurate because they do not reflect the anticipated large unreported immigration population that has migrated to the United States. There are also substantial numbers of international child abductions associated with undocumented migratory parents living in the US with their legally born American child-citizens.
Additionally, historical precedent indicates there exists parents who are left behind in the wake of their child’s international parental abduction who purposefully do not file a child abduction report due to their belief that their chance of recovering their parentally abducted child is slim and that the costs involved in recovery are substantial. Additionally, foreign government’s courts typically favor the abducting parent as a civil order issued by the United States is rarely honored by a foreign nation, particularly if that abducting parent is a national of the country where the child was illegally taken to. There is not question that the crime of international parental child abduction is a well-orchestrated cruel crime against both the child and the Chasing Parent left behind.
Critical to protecting our targeted children and their targeted parent from the nightmare that awaits them if a child successfully is removed from our nation’s borders exists federal and in certain states, abduction prevention laws.Tragically, many states still have not implemented prevention laws. This needs to change immediately.However, in states where there are laws in place and courts have issued orders in order to prevent a parental child abduction from occurring, there are too many loop holes that, if planned carefully, will allow certain individuals the opportunity to abduct a child and flee to another country. This is particularly true if the parent intending to abduct their US citizen child is a non-US - national and that person still holds citizenship to another nation.
This report was created to share certain information about the United State’s Prevent Departure Program, (PDP) and how this particular program may be utilized to assist certain at-risk US citizen children from the horrible fate of international parental child abduction.
Perhaps the best way to discuss the Prevent Departure Program is to discuss a typical scenario where the PDP may be useful.
Lets begin by suggesting Parent A is a citizen of another country but lives in the United States with Parent B. Parent B is a United States citizen. Parent A need not be married to Parent B.
During the course of A and B’s relationship, a child is born in the United States. When this occurs, the child is automatically a United States Citizen by birth.
In all likelihood, the child also will retain automatic citizenship to the nation that Parent A is a national of.
Let us assume both parents enjoy a right of custody to the child either through marriage, or, in cases where there is no marriage, either by state statue or by court orders.
During the course of time, Parent A decides to end the relationship and desires to return to their nation of origin with the child.
Now, Parent B, having great concern that Parent A intends to take the child and flee the United States and go to another country, obtains court orders forbidding Parent A from taking the child out of the country. The court orders for Parent A to turn over to the court the child’s US passport if one has been issued, and further directs the child’s name to be registered with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, thus essentially removing the potential abducting parent from being able to remove the child from the United States using an American passport issued in the child’s name.
In addition, Parent B successfully requests that the court notify the embassy of the country Parent A is a citizen of, whereas, the court informs the embassy that a child custody dispute is alive and well in the jurisdiction of the child’s country of habitual residency, and the court requests for that foreign embassy not to issue a passport in the child’s name, thus securing the inability of the child from departing until the court proceedings are finalized.
Problem solved? No
In many circumstances, a pending departure is already well planned before the targeted parent becomes aware of it. Parent A may already have in their possession a passport issued by their nation of origin for the child. If this is the case, it is very difficult for the US court to seize the foreign passport of the child, particularly if it is not known whether a passport has been issued in the child’s name.
If a passport has not been issued in the child’s name, then in all likelihood, Parent A will attempt to obtain one regardless if the child’s passport application requires Parent B’s signature or not. In fact, certain countries do not require the signature of the mother of a child, only the father.
In addition, each nation obtains a sovereign right to oversee their own citizens, and since the child may be considered a citizen of the country of Parent A too, the embassy is not required or obligated to follow the U.S. court’s orders. They have every right and may issue a passport in the child’s name despite requests not to do so. And make no mistake about this, in more cases than not, particularly if Parent A is very persuasive when communicating with someone from their own embassy, they will successfully obtain the passport.
If Parent A has possession of a non-US passport for their child, they very well may be able to physically leave the country with the child and illegally abduct the child. What is perhaps even more troubling is the fact that Parent B has no way or right to know if a passport was issued from the native country of Parent A in the name of the child.
A disaster waiting to happen? You bet it is.
But there is hope for those parents who find themselves in a scenario where Parent A is not an American citizen living in the United States with their child and, Parent A possess a foreign passport for the child of the relationship.
Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, many parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool is available to them.
In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The program applies to non-US citizens physically located in America considered individuals at risk of child abduction. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.
What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country.
The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country.
Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.
If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.
In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program, all of the following must be demonstrated:
1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,
2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,
3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,
4. The Subject must be in the US; and,
5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.
With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States. The program does not apply to US citizens at risk of leaving the country.
The second mandate states a request to place an individual’s name on the Prevent Departure Program must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.
The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are injunction orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction.
The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be on U.S. soil.
The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.
For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable.
The Prevent Departure Program is not for everyone and should not be abused; however, in situations where an abduction threat is real and the targeting parent intent on abducting a child is a non-US citizen possessing the capacity to breach court orders and abduct a child of a relationship, the Prevent Departure Program may be a useful tool.
For more information on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children's Issues website or contact the Office of Children’s Issues directly at 888.407.4747 or 202.501.4444.