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Archive for the ‘Abduction’ Category

Sweet (Idaho)

Things are so bad with family justice that one has to underscore when the worst is avoided. In Jesus Ramirez’case and his three-year old daughter, Maria, one was heading towards a fiasco à la Bail Romero in Missouri: an immigrant parent being deprived for ever of his parental rights.

Close call. Without the Idaho Supreme Court overturning the ruling of the Idaho Department of Human and Health Services, Jesus Ramirez would never have seen his daughter. Ramirez is a Mexican undocumented worker, who married an American citizen in Idaho in 2007.  A year after, he is expelled and returned to Mexico, soon joined by his wife.  Maria is conceived in Mexico but born in Idaho, where Ramirez’ wife returns in 2008. As she is accused of child’s neglect, Maria is put in a foster home. Ramirez, who has tried to come back to the country to reunite with Maria, is accused of having abandoned her, not to have the financial needs to support her, and is given the thorny “best interest of the child stuff”: Maria will live in the beautiful country of ours.

In Ramirez’ case, the Idaho Supreme Court has asserted that undocumented parents also have parental rights. That may help parental rights in general.

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Encarnación Bail Romero

Presumably most of the readers of this blog have had a taste of family court justice ‘s solidarity towards their own, and they know it is rarely about justice.  Say, you file a downward petition of child support which is denied; then you appeal and your appeal is also denied, because the appellate judge won’t overturn a decision of a fellow colleague. You may not be able to pay your rent but you are an unknown entity for these folks, while they cross pass every day and want to be able to take the elevator together if they have to without being uncomfortable.

Sometimes that’s sadly all there is to it in a ruling, or perhaps I am just rambling trying to find out a rationale to the termination of Encarnación Bail Romero’s parental rights. Bail Romero, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, lost custody of her son Carlos after the INS raided the poultry plant where she was working.  While she was incarcerated, Bail Romero thought her son Carlos was taken care off by family members, who in fact had their hands full with their own children and asked for the help of the Moser family. The Mosers came to like the kid and file for adoption, knowing Bail Romero’s predicament.

Don’t bother asking why in Missouri one can adopt a child whose parents 1/are known and in jail 2/ have not stated their willingness to give up her children for adoption. Judge Dally – Jasper county, Missouri circuit court- doesn’t mind and delivers the kid to the Mosers. Encarnacíon Bail Romero then regained her parental rights once in Missouri Supreme Court and lost them again, along with Carlos, a week ago. Green county Judge David Jones ruled that Bail Romero abandoned Carlos while in jail, clearing the way for the Mosers to file for Carlos’ adoption a second time. Evidently, judges in Missouri have a peculiar conception of parental rights, and one wonders how the Mosers can even think of adopting a child that they have to tear off from his mother. That’s the sad outcome of à la Dally and Jones justice: illegal immigrants’ children are up for grab in Missouri.

A justice system that allows Encarnación Bail Romero to be deprived of her parental rights does not need rogue judges like Dally and Jones in business. All that is needed is for the INS, after a raid into a plant operating with undocumented immigrants, to inform prospective candidates for adoption about the list of available children.

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I have been holding my breath for more than a  week, since the President of the Mexican Supreme Court Arturo Zaldívar put on the Court agenda Florence Cassez’s unconditional and immediate liberation. I thought this time, Florence would be whiffing Spring time outside of jail for the first time in six years. The Court decision came yesterday, March 21 and it is disappointing, for Florence Cassez and for the Mexican justice system: although four judges acknowledged serious violations of Florence’ human rights had flawed due process, only two voted for her immediate liberation. A majority of three was needed.

I am no Mexican constitutional lawyer, but I have to confess that the positions of those judges who did not see yesterday the legal imperative to let Florence go are quite puzzling: Pardo Rebollado for instance, stated that it was not “the appropriate legal moment” for the Supreme Court to take on the task to liberate Florence (when will it be if not now, let alone yesterday?); For Ramón Cossío, violations to due process in Cassez’s case were not serious enough to warrant her liberation; he wants another trial.  As if the Mexican justice system had not shown enough it was prone to commit type I errors – put innocents in jail and for that matter, Florence- not to give it another chance to do so…

It is clear one would not be that tempted to second guess the Mexican Supreme Court decision had President Calderón refrained from telling it how he wanted it to rule. Before the Supreme Court rendered its decision, Felipe Calderón urged it to take into account the victims of kidnappings. In so doing, Calderón encroached on the prerogatives of the judiciary. This is actually quite consistent with his administration practices, which blur the borders between justice and police actions:  Genaro Garcia Luna, the Secretary of Public Safety since 2006, cooks proofs, produces victims and culprits and stages them for TV.

President Calderón posturing as the knight of victims of kidnapping has something tragically ironical to it.  According to Damien Cave in a March 17 New York Times article, reported abductions in Mexico are up 300% since 2005.  There is even a new trend going on: the kidnapping of entire families.   Keeping Florence Cassez in jail at any price is about all that Calderón has yet left to mislead the Mexican people on the calamitous outcome of his administration in the area of crime prevention, kidnappings included.

One day will come, soon I hope, when Mexicans will not buy anymore the Calderón-Wallace propaganda that sells Florence’s liberation as a favor to a foreigner,  but will realize that liberating an innocent – who happened to be a foreigner- is a favor to the Mexican justice system and to Mexicans. Meanwhile, hold on Florence.  Abrazos.

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Encarnacíon Bail Romero (photo New York Times)

It is amazing how slow justice is, and even slower at fixing its own mistake; mistakes, which in the case of family justice, are profuse and leave incurable wounds.

Missouri Supreme Court finally gave back Encarnacíon Bail Romero the parental rights that she had lost in Jasper county circuit court. More than two years ago, an admirable knight of family values, judge David C. Dally, deprived Bail Romero of her custody rights of Carlos, her son. Why? She was an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, in jail after the poultry plant where she was working (plant whose owners, I bet, are one of these folks who would tell you very seriously that taxes and Obama’s health care law kill private- sector hiring) was raided by the I.N.S.  After Dally’s ruling, the then two-year old Carlos was given for adoption to an American couple.

John De Leon, a lawyer of the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, declared that the Supreme Court had recognized that immigrants have the same rights than anyone else. I would not go that far. Bail Romero has still to go through another trial to regain Carlos’ custody.

I have not found anything in the media about Jasper circuit court judge David C. Dally. I wish the Missouri Supreme Court had removed this fellow from his job and had been creative in his sentencing. I would gladly see Dally sentenced to  work in the very poultry factory Bail Romero was working, and his wage given to her as long as she is separated from her son Carlos.

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Family courts must render justice once in a while, I guess. When you are female, US citizen and well-off, you have better chances

Cirila Balthazar Cruz and daugher in Jackson Mississipi

to get it.  If you do not have all of these three characteristics, you are in trouble. Family courts are machines that step on parental rights and produce legal abductions. If you are an illegal migrant, that’s an aggravating circumstance.  As Cristina’s show on Univision documented it, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) might separate you from your kids, then comfort you with the assurance that they will be placed in an affluent family. Or the INS might let family court deprive the illegal migrant  from her parental rights.  Jaspar County’s judge Dally gave Carlos Romero for adoption because his mother, Encarnación Bail Romero, was in jail facing deportation.

Cirila Balthazar Cruz is a Mexican immigrant who gave birth to a baby girl in Pascagoula (Mississipi) in 2008.  She does not speak English or Spanish but Chatino,  an indigenous language spoken in the Oaxaca region. Unfortunately, a social worker who had certainly missed his vocation as a customer representative in a private health insurance company, was working in the hospital. No english? Unfit to be a mother. It took the efforts of the Mississipi Immigrants Rights Assistance and the intervention of the Mexican government to reunite Balthazar Cruz with her daughter. Two years after the facts.

Family is supposedly a value in this country. Why is there such a density of incompetent people working in family courts, whose mess needs to be cleaned up?

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Patricia Joly’s article in the January 8 2010 issue of the French newspaper “Le Monde” is not primarily about parental alienation.

(Copyright Didier Erwoine)

It is about a woman in her fifties, Chantal Clos, and her eighteen-year old daughter Anouk, being suspected of having abducted, while pretending to be two Belgian journalists,  the lawyer Pascaline Saint Arroman Petroff. Saint Arroman Petroff was tied to a tree in the forest of the Parisian suburb. The kidnappers were hoping that the cold would kill their victim, who succeeded after a few hours to free herself. During her ordeal, the lawyer identified her two executioners as being the wife and daughter of one of her client, Yves Phélut.  In the 1990′s, Clos asked for divorce on the ground that Yves Phélut had incestuous relationship with his daughter. Three times she pressed charges against Phélut at no avail. Saint Arroman Petroff was Phélut’s lawyer.

The article stresses Clos neighbors’ relief after her arrest. Clos was certainly a disturbing element of the 13th arrondissement of Paris. Yet what is of interest to me in Joly’s article, is parental alienation. Clos is of Natalia Borukhova‘s type. She led her daughter Anouk to embrace her plan to destroy her father, harassed the French justice system, kidnapped one of its representative – the lawyer of her former husband. Clos also threatened a physician who did not want to sign a medical certificate testifying that  Anouk had been sexually abused. Among Clos’ achievements, her role in the creation of an obscure committee of mothers (comité des mères). Every time she pressed charge against her ex-husband, Clos benefited from legal aid.

Her husband, Yves Phélut, is part of the vast international club of fathers accused of child abuse, cleared of this accusation and who does not see their children (he has not seen Anouk in thirteen years). I do not see much hope on the front of fathers’ rights on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Father and sonDavid Goldman’s ordeal is finally over. It took negociations at the highest level for him to be reunited with Sean, his son. Upon arrival of Sean to the US,  Secretary Clinton congratulated all those who participated to this happy outcome.

The Goldman’s story is one of the restoration of parental rights thanks to Brazil respecting the international convention on abduction, which it is a signatory. Unfortunately this has been the omitted part of the story here. The media has been busy, again, waving flags, and  boring us with Sean’s first hamburger eaten in the US (they don’t have hamburger in Brazil?). Although I share David Goldman’s happiness, I think the dignity of the event was lending itself to a reflection on parental rights and abduction in a more general sense. For instance, parents deprived by the family court system of their parental rights just because of they have been accused without proof of domestic violence or child abuse; or illegal emigrant parents whose children are taken away from them, because a judge thinks that an adoptive, well-off  American family would be more suited for their offspring. Here, in the US, these folks have no international convention on abduction that protects their parental rights.

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The media has recently been talking of children illegally kidnapped by their mothers: in the US, Shawn Goldman ‘s case is perhaps the most famous. Shawn was abducted by her now late mother and his father David is trying to regain custody of his son; in France, the case that has alarmed the public is Elise’s, whose mother brought her to Russia. Both of these cases have seriously strained the relations between the US and Brazil and those of France with Russia. But when you are a non-custodial father in the US whose children have been abducted with the blessing of the family court system, your case does not bother a soul.

It should though, for there are  really no differences, as far as contacts between fathers and children are concerned,

Chloé's "supervised" birthday (2004)

Chloé's "supervised" birthday (2004)

between illegal and legal cases of abduction. Example: June 11 2009, was my daughter Chloé ‘s twelvth  birthday. As usual, I called. I was not expecting Chloé to pick up.  My girls never do. We have no direct, spontaneous phone exchanges. I leave a message, which perhaps would give rise to a call from my girls. On June 11, I could not leave a message . I was told that the number was disconnected. I then remember an email which my ex-wife sent me a few days before at work:

Please note: the contact # for Camille and Chloé Lacour is…then follows a number with a German area code.

Obviously, I called the German number and left a message. I never got any answer.

Folks, this is what I know. My girls are somewhere in Germany during  Summer.

What am I complaining about? My divorce agreement stipulates that when my ex-wife is abroad for more than two weeks, she has to tell me the whereabouts of the girls. She has never been so precise. Usually I am not even told where they are. And if I am not happy, I always can hire a family lawyer, go back to Manhattan family court and wait for another six years of trial to make my case! These fathers whose kids have been abducted by foreigners, they just have international conventions on abduction to protect them!

Anyway, happy birthday Chloé!

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Undocumented immigrants and non-custodial fathers have something in common: Their kids are arbitrarily abducted by the family court

The town of Chatino

The town of Chatino

system.. or the lack of it.

Actually, in the case of Cirila Balthazar Cruz, unlike Bail Romero‘s,  it was not even a family court judge who played God with parent rights, it was originally  a social worker. Cirila Balthazar Cruz is a Mexican immigrant from Oaxaca and lives in Pascagoula (Mississipi). She has the bad fortune to give birth to a baby girl in the local hospital. However, Cirila Balthazar Cruz does not speak Spanish, but Chatino, a Zacapotec language spoken in the State of Oaxaca. Hence the Puerto Rican social worker entendi nada and…  got pretty resentful about it. Verdict: unfit to be a mother. That’s enough for the very sensitive and open-minded hospital authorities: the baby girl is placed for adoption with an affluent local family, while the mother faced deportation. Cindy Von Quednow, the Colorlinesblog reporter, does not peep about the role of Pascagoula family court in the story. Obviously, its absence was deafening…

Again, I hope David Goldman will soon be reunited with his son.  David Goldman’s case should teach lawmakers and politicians, especially those screaming at Brazil’s non respect of an international convention on abduction: There are blatant cases of abductions going on in the US, by family courts or while family courts looked the other way.

Hat tip: Laura Martinez

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David Goldman seemed very close to see the end of his ordeal. In 2004, his son Sean, then four, was abducted by his late ex-wife,

Photo BringSeanHome.Org

Photo BringSeanHome.Org

Bruna, a Brazilian citizen. Everything started with a simple, innocuous family trip to  Brazil. Then, while in Brazil, Bruna, David Goldman’s wife,  showed no intention to come back to New Jersey, where the couple lived. If David wants to see his kid, he will have to a grant Bruna sole custody of Sean. Bruna would then get a divorce in Brazil from David Goldman, remarry  with a prominent lawyer and work the Brazilian family court system to remove Goldman’s name from Sean’s birth record.  She died in childbirth last month. In the meantime, David Goldman went to court in New Jersey, got a court order for a custody hearing. The kid should be returned to his father during the custody hearing. But the Brazilian court waited a year to respond to New Jersey court and finally decided that Sean could stay in Brazil.  End of the story? Nope. Brazil is a signatary of the Hague abduction convention, the Obama administration brings the case to the attention of the Brazilian authorities. A Brazilian federal judge ordered the boy to be turned to his father. Last wednesday, the boy had to be turn to the American Consulate in Rio but  on Tuesday, the Brazilian Supreme court suspended the order at the request of the Progressive Party, which argued that the Sean return to the US was unconstitutional.  The Brazilian Supreme Court is now to take up the case.

David Goldman’s ordeal is heartbreaking and one can only hope that he will soon be reunited with his son. What spoils it though is the clamor of the new knight of the fight against child  abduction,  Chris Smith, Republican Representative of New Jersey, who bashes at the Brazilian government for not respecting an international convention.  Chris Smith clearly needs to be introduced to the club of fathers who have been deprived from the right to see their kids, here, in New Jersey or in the U.S.  More often, family courts granted sole custody to the mother and the non-custodial fathers saw their rights to see their kids curtailed or annihilated. Unlike David Goldman, the rights of these fathers are not protected by an international convention against child abduction, and the media splendidly ignore them. When have we heard Chris Smith talking about father rights in the  State of New Jersey?

 

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