BROWNSVILLE – A Brownsville girl is back home safe with her mother. Federal authorities said her father kidnapped her, crossed the border into Mexico and was trying to take her to Iraq.
It took local and federal authorities a week to track them down in Mexico City.
Victim advocates at the Friendship of Women said they deal with cases of international parental abductions at least three times a month. It can be a long, drawn out process to get the child back home and it’s the child who suffers the most.
Mexico City is nearly 700 miles away from Brownsville. Federal authorities tracked down the 8-year-old Brownsville girl there.
Agents said she was kidnapped by her father.
The girl’s mother reported her missing after she didn’t make it home following a weekend visit with her father. The Brownsville Police Department took the initial report.
“He normally checks out of the hotel that Sunday, but this time he checked out on a Saturday and they were nowhere to be found. They made the report; it was a welfare concern,” Brownsville Police Lt. J.J. Trevino said.
According to an FBI spokesperson, federal statute says, “It’s a federal crime for a parent to remove or attempt to remove a child from the United States or keep them outside of the United States with the intent to obstruct another parent’s custodial rights.”
An Amber Alert was issued for the girl in Mexico. Federal agents tracked the man down in Mexico City and arrested him Friday. Agents said he was allegedly trying to obtain a passport to Iraq for the Brownsville girl.
Sandy Paredes, legal advocate for Friendship of Women, said she’s glad authorities intervened in time.
“Every country, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, they’re very, very different compared to the United States and it’s very hard to get a child back. I’ve seen the laws. It’s very, very hard,” she said.
Paredes said the proximity to the border keeps them busy with these types of cases, at least three every month.
She said parents need to have a court order in place. It’s risky to rely on just a verbal agreement or unofficial agreement on parental custody issues. Without a court order in place to show a blatant violation, some of the cases can take years to resolve since both parents have rights to the child.
“If there’s no paperwork, it’s a civil matter. They can file a police report but it’s a civil matter,” Paredes said.
She said parents should make copies of all important documents and give them to their child to take with them on their visits with the other parent. Take pictures of the child, know what they are wearing, their haircut and any identifiable birthmarks.
Federal authorities also said to stay vigilant of any major changes by the other parent, including selling a home, quitting a job or closing of any accounts.
The father was charged in Houston federal court for international parental kidnapping, punishable up to three years in federal prison.