The following report focuses on fraud associated with the criminal removal and international parental child abduction of children, and in particular, documentation fraud associated with illegal cross-border removals associated with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in North America. Excerpts of this report originate from ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ written by international parental child abduction prevention advocates Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk.International Parental Child Abduction involves the conspired criminal and fraudulent scheme by one parent to illegally remove a child from their country of origin or jurisdiction and away from the child’s other parent against court orders or rights of custody. According to U.S. federal law, this act of abduction is in fact considered kidnapping and is covered by the ‘International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act’ and the federal ‘Prevention Kidnapping Crimes Act’. Many nations throughout the world have similar laws. The act itself of child abduction is a severe form of child abuse as established by leading therapist and cited and upheld throughout national and international law enforcement and judicial circles. Ongoing acts of parental alienation are strategically implemented by an abducting parent in order to have the abducted child sanction the criminal acts that have been cast upon them. Too Often, abducted children take on the conditions associated with Stockholm Syndrome, whereas, they gradually are coerced to sanction the criminal acts of the abducting parent.
Undeniably, an abducted child is a prisoner forced to coop with the behavior and aggressions of the abducting criminal parent, who, according to various federal law enforcement and government agencies, describes a parental child abductor as someone who often displays sociopathic tendencies. Tragically, a child victimized by abduction will suffer both short-term and long-term consequences at the hand of a manipulative, criminal abductor: according to various federal and independent reports and studies, a child abductor often uses the child of a relationship to cause harm and injury to the targeted parent, superficially being demonstrative to the child, but in fact actually acting with severe abuse and manipulative control of the child. The reality is a child who is abducted by one parent is the target of hideous abuse whereas the abducting parent will do everything possible to deprive the child of their identity, their rights to love and interact with their other parent, and a sense of family. In many cases the child’s physical safety is placed into grave danger. Spiritually and psychologically a child is spiritually ambushed and physiologically terrorized to the point that their innocence is denied at the hands of the abductor’s coercion and manipulation.
Make no mistake, fraud is the primary tool of a child abductor. Displaying sociopathic tendencies, these scheming child abductors typically have a pre-meditated and well planned strategy evolving around how they intend to illegally remove the child from the country of jurisdiction, particularly if there are court orders in place prohibiting a removal.
In the United States, as is elsewhere, including in particular the European Union, travel documentation fraud and poor exit control policies for minors traveling abroad are significant problem that enables abductors to criminally remove a child across a border.In ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ I co-authored with Carolyn Ann Vlk, we discuss our findings to the question ‘How are our children being abducted abroad?’ Our findings led us to investigate, research, and study the ramifications of the ‘Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative’ Our findings and conclusions are extremely concerning.
The following is an excerpt taken from ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ by Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk concerning fraudulent documentation as it is connected to how children are illegally removed from one country to another in North America. In addition, our unpublished findings concerning global documentation fraud, including in the European Union, is expected to be published in early 2012. Present determinations and findings demonstrate that Europe, Asia, and Africa have similar challenges due to fraudulent documentation issues connected to travel under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
The WHTI requirements for air travel took effect on January 23, 2007. According to U.S. Customs Border Protection, “All U.S. citizens and non-immigrant aliens from Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico departing from or entering the United States from within the Western Hemisphere at air ports-of-entry are required to present a valid passport (or NEXUS card, if utilizing a NEXUS kiosk when departing from a designated Canadian airport).” We believe that this stringent mandate for verifiable documentary identification prior to air travel has significantly reduced the ability to unlawfully remove a child from the United States.
Additionally, the U.S. increased the security of its child citizens when on February 1, 2008 new requirements under Public Law 106-113, Section 236 took effect requiring the permission of both parents prior to the issuance of a U.S. passport for children under the age of 16. According to the Department of State Office Of Children’s Issues, “U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. Generally, to obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians. If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).”
Due to the implementation of these new requirements, the ability to unlawfully transport children that do not possess dual citizenship across borders has become increasingly difficult. The two-parent signature necessary for a minor child’s U.S. passport issuance has strengthened our border security and reduced the ability to present incomplete or fraudulent documentation in order to travel with a child across international borders. Thankfully, our child citizens are better protected than they were just a few years ago.
The two-parent signature requirement necessary for a U.S. Passport to be issued for a child has greatly reduced the opportunity that a passport will be issued without another parent’s knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, documentation fraud is still very difficult to detect and remains a severe threat to our nation’s children, especially if initiated by parental forgery. Tragically, for many targeted-parent victims of international parental child abduction this type of fraud is common. Unquestionably, it is critical that precautionary steps continue to be taken before issuing passports to children due to substantial evidence of documentation fraud.
Additionally, and to our great concern, it appears to be relatively easy to obtain fraudulent or falsified identification or residency documentation. Tere Silva, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said in a statement issued on November 17th, 2010, “Among the various schemes and artifices being used by some unscrupulous persons are offers to provide immigration services, including ways to avoid the established channels for adjusting one’s immigration status, offers to provide false and forged identity documents, even threats and false impersonation of immigration officials.”
On November 19th, 2010 Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Sacramento, California stated, “Targeting those responsible for making and selling fraudulent documents is an enforcement priority for ICE HSI. Anyone who knowingly and indiscriminately sells phony identity cards is putting the security of our communities and even our country at risk. Documents like this could potentially be used by dangerous criminals and others seeking to obscure their identities and mask their motives.” Agent Lane’s comments came after ICE arrested four individuals for running a highly sophisticated forged document factory that included creating fraudulent California drivers licenses, permanent resident cards (Green Cards), U.S. birth certificates and other documents capable of removing a child from the U.S. under the WHTI.
In response to the rise of illegal entry and exodus to the United States, the implementation of WHTI policy has effectively narrowed the types of documents that are acceptable in proving identity and citizenship. Although this change is a critical step towards meeting the challenge of securing our borders there still remain significant security challenges due to certain allowable exemptions. Unfortunately, when it comes to cross border travel by children being transported by land or sea, numerous security defects exist. Unquestionably, individuals or organizations with intent to breach the law have exploited these policy flaws. Our nation’s children as well as children from other countries are suffering either as defenseless victims of international parental child abduction or as helpless slaves taken into the world of human trafficking, where the worst types of crimes against humanity are the norm.
As a nation concerned with our children’s safety and welfare, it is unacceptable that large gaps in security protocol exist in our nation’s international travel document requirements for children traveling in the Western Hemisphere. In the 2009, annual Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs writes, “Unfortunately, current trends reflect a steady increase in the number of international parental child abduction cases and highlight the urgency of redoubling efforts to promote compliance with Convention obligations and encourage additional nations to join the Convention.” She also writes, “Very few options exist for parents and children who are victims of parental child abduction.” In the 2010 annual report Ms. Jacobs continues to voice concerns over the increasing numbers of our child-citizens who have been wrongfully removed or wrongfully detained.
Assistant Secretary of State of Consular Affairs Jacobs concern about the growing rate of international parental child abduction (IPCA) is alarming, yet our adjacent borders remain relatively open for those with the knowledge on how to circumvent border security protocol. Make no mistake, nearly every IPCA case is well thought out and planned.
The buying and selling of humans is the second largest criminal activity in the world. In the U.S., this problem is much more severe than commonly discussed. Of particular concern is that it is estimated that over 70% of all humans trafficked into the U.S. originate from Latin America: countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador are well-known supply sources for human cargo.
A significant number of these enslaved are young teenagers between 13 and 15 years old who originate from poverty-stricken communities, and who are lured into the dark world of slavery due to false promises of legitimate jobs and a better life in America. What awaits them is an inhuman slave world filled with torture, violence, and threats of death to family members they left behind if they ever attempt to flee their imprisoned ‘cantinas’ – prison-like brothels where they are never allowed to leave. Tragically, sure death awaits those imprisoned into this inferno: they are either murdered, die of drug overdose, or die of disease and infection.
One of the grave concerns we must ask is How are these individual doomed to enter the awaiting world of human slavery trafficked into the United States from Latin America and crossing our border?
It is apparent that the majority of human cargo entering our borders due so illegally. Though limited data is available, sound reasoning leads us to anticipate that this number is substantial.
Due to limited border documentation requirements under WHTI policy, particularly for minors traveling, there is substantial concern that human traffickers are currently using this loophole in order to move their young human cargo into the United States from Mexico and Caribbean island-nations.
The world of human trafficking and slavery is very real. According to author of Free The Slaves, Kevin Bale, there are nearly 27 million people across the world caught in modern-day slavery. The United States Department of State Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP Report) estimates this number to be between 4 million and 27 million individuals. Additionally, the Department of State estimates that there are over 800,000 individuals each year being transported across international borders. And according to their 2005 report titled Facts About Child Sex Tourism, there were over 1 million children exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year. All of these numbers continue to increase. Human trafficking is a dark world without any peer and most organizations involved in human trafficking and slavery are highly sophisticated.
Yet our borders remain relatively unencumbered for children traveling abroad in the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. Passport Requirements For International Travel
For U.S. Citizens, a Federal Statute mandates that any citizen of the U.S. must possess a valid U.S. passport to depart from or enter the U.S. Following is the text of Federal Statute 8 U.S.C. 1185 (b).
(b) Citizens Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
When WHTI requirements for land and sea became effective on June 1, 2009 exceptions to the Federal Statute passport requirement were allowed. The new regulation states that U.S. citizens and citizens of Canada, Bermuda and Mexico may present a passport or other WHTI-compliant documents when entering or departing the United States at sea or land ports-of-entry from within the Western Hemisphere.
Due to exceptions to the passport requirement, our research has concluded there exists distinct areas of vulnerability at the border for our children.
The presentation of fraudulent documents at border points has long existed and is well illustrated in the publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule” that was released March 27, 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security. It was reported that CBP officers had intercepted over 129,000 fraudulent documents since January 2005 from individuals trying to cross the border over an approximate 3 ½ year period. This is a substantial number; however, we must ask ourselves how many fraudulent documents were never uncovered and successfully used?
To better demonstrate the severity of this problem we take note of a scenario that occurred several years ago in Texas and was reported by the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. A women acting as a lay-midwife was charged and convicted with fraudulently filing and obtaining over 3,400 United States birth certificate claims over a ten year period: almost one American birth certificate a day was fraudulently obtained and sold on the black market over a decade by one woman alone. This individual was one of eleven individuals convicted of filing and obtaining false birth certificates that were sold on the black market in Texas during a federal investigation. Of immense concern to us is that WHTI allows a child to cross international borders by land or sea and in lieu of a passport an original or copy of a birth certificate may be presented.
As noted in language of the Federal Statute above, limitations and exceptions do exist. According to CBP passport exceptions exist when traveling with U.S. or Canadian citizen infants and children. Of grave concern are the deficiencies that could be utilized in the cross border unlawful removal by land or sea of at risk children. If traveling by air everyone, even infants require a passport. However, WHTI allows that U.S. and Canadian citizen children “will not require passports for travel by land or sea when the June 1, 2009 rule goes into effect requiring all land and sea travelers to have a passport. Children under the age of 15 will have a blanket exemption from this requirement – although they will be required to present a copy of a birth certificate and, if not traveling with both parents, a consent letter from the other parent(s).”
We are especially concerned about the ability to falsify travel documentation for children. The capability to easily present travel documentation without another parent’s consent or to falsify travel documents for children in cases where a passport is not required appears relatively easy. The fact that simply a birth certificate or worse, a “copy” of a birth certificate and a letter of permission with no documentation to verify its validity, is sufficient to cross international borders is a serious security concern. And although it is also recommended that a parent or guardian possess a letter of consent from the absent parent(s) this may or may not be required or requested. We must also consider that there is no way to verify the validity of a parental consent letter.
These concerns should sound an alarm bell directed at courts presiding over child custody cases where there is concern for potential international parental child abduction. Peter Thomas Senese, the co-writer of this report wrote in Chasing The Cyclone, “I know first-hand of several international parental child abduction cases where a false international travel consent letter was either fraudulently produced or never produced by the other parent in order for that abducting parent to depart from Canada into the United States or from the United States into Canada. The court’s orders were not followed, as is the case with all abducting parents. More troubling is the fact that in each of these cases, none of the necessary consent letters were ever checked by either countries border patrol or immigration agencies. This is absurd, particularly when knowing many of these consent to travel letters were not notarized and not original documents. It must be a requirement on both sides of the border for all land and sea travelers regardless of age to use a passport, which is the policy in place for air travel.”
When we consider the growing rate of international abduction here in the U.S. and abroad, there is a very real concern that our borders are used not only as a final destination for an abducting parent or trafficker, but as the launching point for an abductor to travel to their intended final destination. Although most countries recognize that documentation fraud is a severe concern it is clear that the minimization of travel document requirements needed for a minor to travel across our borders enables would-be abductors to criminally abduct a child. For example, if a would-be abductor traveling by land from the U.S. to Canada has in their possession any child’s original or ‘a copy’ of a birth certificate and a falsified consent to travel letter, they have the capability to internationally abduct any child from the U.S.
Realistically, all a potential abductor may need is a copy of a birth certificate. Although it is recommended that children traveling alone or with one parent posses a consent letter from any absent parents this is not a requirement. In reference to the birth certificate requirement, many parents obtain several copies of a child’s birth certificate: it is not as if you are allowed only one copy such as a U.S. Passport. Unquestionably, if all cross-border travel for children of all ages does not include the much more secure and controllable use of a passport, then abducting parents and human traffickers will still be capable of abducting children.
The required travel document for an infant under age one who is traveling by land or sea between the U.S. and Canada is alarming. The CBP states that “If you have not yet received a birth certificate for a U.S. or Canadian citizen infant, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept either the birth record issued by the hospital or a letter on hospital letterhead providing details of the birth, including the name of the child, time and place of birth, and parents names. Birth certificates should be used for children over 1 year old.” Once again, the ease of fraudulently creating this type of “document” exists and a child could easily be smuggled across international borders.