Los Angeles, California (PressExposure) October 18, 2011 -- A groundbreaking United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has recommended for the creation of a new international parental child abduction prevention program aimed at establishing a non-departure fly list for United States citizens who have been determined by either our courts or law enforcement as potential high-risk international parental child abductors. In the report that Gerald Dillingham, the Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues for the U.S. GAO issued, the GAO recommendation states, "To further help prevent international parental child abduction involving airline flights, particularly for persons identified as high risk for attempting such abductions, we recommend that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider creating a program similar to the child abduction component of the Prevent Departure program that would apply to U.S. citizens."
A response from Jim Crumpacker of the Departmental GAO/OIG Liaison Office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurs with the GAO recommendation to create a secondary security screening list in order to stop American child-citizens from being illegally abducted abroad; however, DHS cites challenges that exist to implement such a program. Specifically, "DHS strongly agrees that preventing international child abduction is a very important issue. The Department also agrees that expanding its current efforts along these lines to include pre-departure flight screening for potential U.S. citizen abductors could be helped in preventing some abductions." The response by DHS then states that there do exist challenges in implementing a secondary security screening list when he states, "However, a number of challenges exist to visibly implementing a high-risk abductor list for U.S. citizens. These include potential constitutional, operational, privacy, and resource issues, among others. DHS remains committed to continuing its work with the U.S. State Department, the airlines, and other stakeholders to better prevent these abductions. DHS will consider options to expand its efforts, as reasonably appropriate."
The statements by both the GAO and DHS of the grave necessity for a security screening program in the face of the rapid expansion of the criminal international child abduction of American child-citizens originating from the United States offers keen insight for the courts of local jurisdiction who are responsible in issuing orders and remedies that will protect a child from abduction.
A petition site allowing U.S. citizens over the age of 13 to demonstrate their support for child abduction prevention policies and programs has been created on the Official White House website http://wh.gov/2MC
Peter Thomas Senese, the author of IPCA related books including 'Chasing The Cyclone' and the co-author of 'The World Turned Upside Down' as well as the creator/producer of the educational documentary film series on IPCA titled 'Chasing Parents' commented, "The recommendation from the Government Accountability Office, agreed by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, sends an important message to local courts involved with a child's welfare when they consider the potential for a child's international abduction that there is a real and growing problem of American child-citizens who are either criminally abducted from the United States or illegally detained in a foreign country after travel orders are granted. The local courts charged with oversight of a child must take note that the United States federal government is directly saying that existing state and federal government programs and policies created to prevent abduction are not enough to prevent child abduction, and serious loopholes exist that allow for children to be stolen and taken abroad - where too many defenseless children are never recovered. It is my hope that the convergence of multiple government agencies cited in the GAO report, each declaring that IPCA is a real problem, will cause local courts to realize their need to act prudently and with keen insight on all the local and international issues involving a potential child abduction. With thousands of children criminally abducted from the United States and taken abroad each year, the creation of a secondary security departure list will stop a substantial number of American child-citizen kidnappings from occurring each year. This recommended policy is exactly what the child abduction prevention community has been calling for."
According to Joel S. Walter, a New York City based attorney who focuses on federal court and family law matters including international child custody, "There currently exists no database that captures information pertaining to child custody and a court's orders concerning a child's travel restrictions. And even with court orders in place, it is difficult for law enforcement to uphold travel orders, in part due to the lack of an up-to-date nationwide database. When we add that the United States generally does not exercise departure controls at our borders for citizens possessing a valid passport from leaving our country, we begin to realize the ease at which certain individuals may be able to illegally remove a child. Clearly, the Prevent Departure Program offers abduction prevention assistance for targeted parents and children who are non-nationals. However, without a security screening process for parents possessing American citizenship that are considered high-risk abduction threats, prevention of these types of cases will remain extremely difficult. There is no question in my mind that children who face potential international abduction need the United States government to establish additional policy or program that will protect them such as the secondary screening program recommended by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security. The work conducted by the GAO Infrastructure team in thoroughly researching this issue and bringing to light the real need for their suggestions hits right on one of the key issues that attorneys like myself who practice international family law as well as targeted parents of abduction realize: that our nation's children must be protected from the cruel threat of parental kidnapping. I urge others to sign the White House petition site and send a message to our policymakers that we need to new abduction prevention programs."
Patricia M. Lee, a seasoned St. Petersburg and Orlando, Florida based attorney practicing international parental child abduction prevention and reunification added, "The legal environment for parents whose children are at risk of abduction is daunting. To begin with, targeted parents are often not aware of the other parent's imminent plans to abduct their child. All too often local courts may not realize the complex issues involved in these types of cases, and the challenging legal remedies that a targeted or left behind parent faces in order to prevent or attempt to reunite with their child, not to mention the incredible financial burden. Present loopholes in existing laws and policies make it possible for children to be abducted internationally, despite injunctive relief or federal assistance under existing programs. I have to ask why American citizens should be treated differently than resident aliens when the risk of abduction is the same, if not greater, as we are addressing preventing abduction of children from or by parents resident in the United States. These parents most likely possess dual citizenship, or American citizenship documentation. The disparity in treatment of U.S. citizens and resident aliens certainly raises legitimate constitutional concerns, and more importantly, leaves gaping holes in the prevention system. I believe that the recommendations by the GAO are appropriate, timely and much needed. For example, without the creation of a secondary screening departure list established to prevent would-be abductors who possesses a United States passport and/or a secondary passport issued from another country, there are limited remedies available that could realistically prevent a child from being wrongfully taken abroad. What is needed is exactly what the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security are recommending: a preventive program that focuses on the point of departure that ensures that children who are not permitted to leave the country with a particular parent due to potential child abduction are unable to do so. This type of program would be of great benefit to at risk parents seeking to prevent child abduction by a dual national and/or American citizen parent. In our ever shrinking world, this is a very real threat that is not currently being addressed."
To show your support for the creation of a security screening list for individuals considered to be high-risk abductors or to voice your concern over poor travel document requirements needed for children traveling abroad under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative PLEASE sign the WHITE House petition at http://wh.gov/2MC