Valley Mother Seeks Help with Parental Abduction Case
EDINBURG – A Hidalgo county mother is desperate for news from her daughters. She said the girls’ father took them to Mexico, and he doesn't plan on bringing them home.
Maria Garces said her two daughters, 2-year-old Susana and 4-year-old Samantha, are believed to be in Mexico with their father. Garces said she shares custody with the girls’ dad.
“It breaks my heart to know they're not here,” she said.
A court order gives the father the right to 30 days with the girls during the summer.
“The last time I saw my girls was on July the 9th,” she explained.
Garces said she got a call from a Mexican phone number more than a month ago. She told CHANNEL 5 NEWS it was the girls' father saying they were in Mexico City. That goes against the court agreement.
“Written notice shall be furnished to the other conservator less than 21 days before intended day of departure of the children from the United States,” Garces read from the court order.
Garces believes the father has no intention of bringing the girls back. So, she filed a report with the Edinburg Police Department first.
“The next day, they called me and the investigator said, ‘He's the dad. We can't do nothing about it,’” she said.
Garces said then decided to reach out to the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office.
“He basically told me I have to forget about my girls because he doesn't have the power to go to Mexico and bring them back,” she said.
Garces also spoke with authorities in Mexico who told her they could help, but only if U.S. law enforcement sent over a warrant for the father.
Garces said she trusts her girls' dad will not harm the children, but she fears for them living in Mexico.
“That's the part I worry about, because we see on the news all this killing, all this shooting,” she said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS called the U.S. State Department to find out how parents can avoid finding themselves in Garces' situation.
Somerville Evans, a country officer for outgoing child abductions, said parents should look into the court order.
“The most important thing is to have a court order that prohibits the child from traveling outside the country,” he said.
Garces said she feels like the court order means nothing. It didn't keep her children in Texas.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS also asked Evans what a parent should do if their child is taken from the country by another guardian.
“I think the most important thing is, if this happens, is to as soon as possible call local law enforcement,” Evans said.
He also urged parents to call the U.S. State Department immediately at 1-888-407-4747. They can connect parents to U.S. Embassies, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other resources.
Garces said she doesn't have faith local authorities are doing much. So, she's now placing her hope in the state department and FBI.
Last year, there were 248 reports of parental abductions of U.S. children to Mexico. Seventy-seven of those cases, just 31 percent, were resolved.
There is an international treaty called the Hague Convention that can help reunite parents with their children taken abroad. Mexico is a part of that agreement. The law basically states that custody issues must be resolved in the country where a child "habitually resides."
Last year, the state department said there were communication issues with Mexican authorities that delayed applications. The average time to locate a child was 15 months and ten days.
As of December 31, 2016, there were 41 cases where Mexican authorities were seeking to locate abducted children.